Readers’ wildlife photos

February 25, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have a contribution from reader Aaron Hunt, who sent photos of moths and predation. Aaron’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.


Moths form a huge link in terrestrial food webs between plants and insectivores, but I don’t often see the moths that come to my lights get eaten by other arthropods. (I can’t say ‘predators’ because I often see a catbird show up at first light to pick off any moths still near the lights.)

This was an one of my absolute favorite photography sessions. I came across a striking jumping spider, a male Hentzia palmarum, and captured it to take photos. I soon realized that I could make things a lot more interesting by offering my temporary pet some food. That night, I collected a very common moth species, Pigritia murtfeldtella (Gelechioidea: Blastobasidae), that seemed the perfect size for the spider, which I had under a wine glass resting upside down on a plate. I chucked the moth into the spider’s tiny enclosure, and it took the spider only seconds to capture its meal. After taking a few photos, I shook the glass, and the spider dropped onto the plate, slowing its fall by hanging on a strand of silk. After taking more photos, I decided to take on the challenge of photographing the moth while it hung in midair. It took me several minutes and many tries making the spider fall to get a good photo. I got a few more photos, including a ventral shot through the glass and let it finish its meal in peace. Note the several puncture wounds in the moth’s thorax! I released the well-fed spider in the morning. I posted a longer sequence of photos on BugGuide.


The piercing, sucking mouthparts of Hemiptera are generally used for drinking plant juices, but some groups have repurposed them for predation or parasitism. Predatory stink bugs (Pentatomidae: Asopinae) like these Podisus maculiventris can capture prey much larger than themselves! The victims pictured here are Biston betularia (of industrial melanism fame), Prochoerodes lineola, and Campaea perlata (all Geometridae: Ennominae). Predatory stink bugs are not the only Hemiptera that eat moths; I have posted to YouTube a cellphone video of the comical efforts of a Lasiomerus annulatus (Hemiptera: Nabidae) to eat a Dyspteris abortivaria (Geometridae: Larentiinae).

You might not recognize the spiders from these photos, but they’re agelenids, the family responsible for those ubiquitous (here in the Northeast US, at least) dense horizontal webs with a funnel-shaped retreat. Three of these spiders (and a ghost spider, Anyphaenidae) all wandered onto the same sheet one night in late September and all captured prey, two moths and two crane flies. The prey items here are Campaea perlata and Glenoides texanaria (also Geometridae: Ennominae). The latter species is notable for having markedly expanded its range northwards in the last few decades.

A species of large jumping spider, Platycryptus undatus, is quite common on my siding. Over the years, I have seen them catch a variety of prey, including several moths. I once got a video of one capturing a midge. The above photos, both from July 2021, show fully grown individuals stealing moths from my lights. I wasn’t able to figure out what the mangled prey in the first photo is; the second victim is Parapediasia teterrellus, a pest of lawns that feeds on grass roots as larvae.

In 2020, a single female P. undatus hung out by one of the porch lights at least from late July through late September, often emerging from the same hiding spot to look for prey while I recorded the moths. In the first photo (30 July), she is looking at some insect or another. In the second (20 August), she is covered in scales, probably from a moth she ate before I arrived to check the lights. In the third (23 September), she is covered in even more scales and has molted since posing for her previous photos.

Here are photos of adult female (white below eyes) and male (orange below eyes) P. undatus I found wandering around on the porch last summer.

Finally, a mason wasp, Ancistrocerus adiabatus, with an unidentified caterpillar.

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