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Juvenile bolas spiders attract psychodid flies


Large immature and mature female bolas spiders of the genus Mastophora attract certain male moths by aggressive chemical mimicry of those moth species' sex pheromones. These older spiders capture moths by swinging a “bolas” (i.e., a sticky globule suspended on a thread) at the approaching male moths. Juvenile bolas spiders do not use a bolas, but instead use their first two pairs of legs to grab prey, which our field observations suggested were primarily nematocerous Diptera. Our field experiments over a 2-year period demonstrated that juvenile bolas spiders attract moth flies (Psychodidae), with each species apparently specializing on a particular prey species. In three experiments, sticky traps containing young Mastophora phrynosoma spiderlings consistently captured significantly more male Psychoda phalaenoides than were captured on traps containing spiderlings of other Mastophora species or no spiderlings (control traps). Results from two of the three experiments suggested that Mastophora hutchinsoni spiderlings attract male Psychoda trinodulosa. Only two of our experiments included Mastophora bisaccata and those produced contrasting results. In the first experiment, M. bisaccata appeared to attract P. phalaenoides, albeit in lower numbers than were captured on traps containing M. phrynosoma. However, in a second experiment the following year, M. bisaccata spiderlings attracted Psychoda satchelli, a species that had not been caught on any traps the previous year. As suggested by a systematist four decades ago, the taxon currently called M. bisaccata may consist of two or more sibling species, which could account for the contrasting results obtained from our two experiments involving M. bisaccata. This is the first reported evidence that, during early developmental stadia before these spiders attract moths, juvenile bolas spiders attract their prey.

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Correspondence to K. V. Yeargan.

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Yeargan, K.V., Quate, L.W. Juvenile bolas spiders attract psychodid flies. Oecologia 106, 266–271 (1996).

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Key words

  • Bolas spiders
  • Mastophora
  • Psychoda
  • Semiochemicals
  • Predation