Journal of Ethology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 437–445 | Cite as

Predatory behaviour of an araneophagic assassin bug

  • Anne E. WignallEmail author
  • Phillip W. Taylor


Assassin bugs from the genus Stenolemus (Heteroptera, Reduviidae) are predators of web-building spiders. However, despite their fascinating lifestyle, little is known about how these insects hunt and catch their dangerous prey. Here we characterise in detail the behaviour adopted by Stenolemus bituberus (Stål) during encounters with web-building spiders, this being an important step toward understanding this species’ predatory strategy. These bugs employed two distinct predatory tactics, “stalking” and “luring”. When stalking their prey, bugs slowly approached the prey spider until within striking range, severing and stretching threads of silk that were in the way. When luring their prey, bugs attracted the resident spider by plucking and stretching the silk with their legs, generating vibrations in the web. Spiders approached the luring bug and were attacked when within range. The luring tactic of S. bituberus appears to exploit the tendency of spiders to approach the source of vibrations in the web, such as might be generated by struggling prey.


Predation Reduviidae Emesinae Stenolemus Luring Stalking Sensory exploitation 



We thank Chris Evans and Robert Jackson for helpful comments throughout the study. We also thank Marie Herberstein and Aaron Harmer for comments on the manuscript. This study was supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council. AEW was supported by a RAACE scholarship from Macquarie University.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MOV 5529 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MOV 5704 kb)

Supplementary material 3 (MOV 3550 kb)


  1. Anton S, Gnatzy W (1998) Prey specificity and the importance of close-range chemical cues in prey recognition in the digger wasp, Liris niger. J Insect Behav 11:671–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blackledge TA, Pickett KM (2000) Predatory interactions between mud-dauber wasps (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae) and Argiope (Araneae, Araneidiae) in captivity. J Arachnol 28:211–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brumm H, Vozz K, Köllmer I (2004) Acoustic communication in noise: regulation of call characteristics in a New World monkey. J Exp Biol 207:443–448CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Cerveira AM, Jackson RR, Guseinov EF (2003) Stalking decisions of web-invading araneophagic jumping spiders from Australia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Kenya, Portugal, and Sri Lanka: the opportunistic smokescreen tactics of Brettus, Cocalus, Cyrba, and Portia. NZ J Zool (Lond) 30:21–30Google Scholar
  5. Coville RE (1976) Predatory behavior of the spider wasp, Chalybion californicum (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae). Pan Pacific Entomol 52:229–233Google Scholar
  6. Eberhard WG (1977) Aggressive chemical mimicry by a bolas spider. Science 198:1173–1175CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Harland DP, Jackson RR (2000) Cues by which Portia fimbriata, an araneophagic jumping spider, distinguishes jumping-spider prey from other prey. J Exp Biol 203:3485–3494PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Harland DP, Jackson RR (2006) A knife in the back: use of prey-specific attack tactics by araneophagic jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae). J Zool (Lond) 269:285–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Haynes KF, Yeargan KV, Gemeno C (2001) Detection of prey by a spider that aggressively mimics pheromone blends. J Insect Behav 14:535–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hickman VV (1969) The biology of two emesine bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) occurring on the nests or webs of spiders. J Entomol Soc Aust (NSW) 6:3–18Google Scholar
  11. Hodge M (1984) Anti-predator behavior of Achaearanea tepidariorum (Theridiidae) towards Stenolemus lanipes (Reduviidae): preliminary observations. J Arachnol 12:369–370Google Scholar
  12. Jackson RR (1989) The biology of Cobanus mandibularis, a jumping spider (Araneae: Salticidae) from Costa Rica: intraspecific interactions, predatory behaviour, and silk utilization. NZ J Zool 16:282–392Google Scholar
  13. Jackson RR (1990) Predatory and nesting behaviour of Cocalus gibbosus, a spartaeine jumping spider (Araneae: Salticidae) from Queensland. NZ J Zool 17:483–490Google Scholar
  14. Jackson RR, Brassington RJ (1987) The biology of Pholcus phalangioides (Araneae, Pholcidae): predatory versatility, araneophagy and aggressive mimicry. J Zool (Lond) 211:227–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jackson RR, Hallas SEA (1986) Comparative biology of Portia africana, P. albimana, P. fimbriata, P. labiata, and P. shultzi, araneophagic, web-building jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae): utilisation of webs, predatory versatility, and intraspecific interactions. NZ J Zool 13:423–489Google Scholar
  16. Jackson RR, Pollard SD (1997) Jumping spider mating strategies: sex among cannibals in and out of webs. In: Choe JC, Crespi BJ (eds) The evolution of mating systems in insects and arachnids. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 340–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jackson RR, Whitehouse MEA (1986) The biology of New Zealand and Queensland pirate spiders (Araneae, Mimetidae): aggressive mimicry, araneophagy and prey specialization. J Zool (Lond) 210:279–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jackson RR, Wilcox RS (1993) Spider flexibly chooses aggressive mimicry signals for different prey by trial and error. Behaviour 127:21–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jackson RR, Willey MB (1994) The comparative study of the predatory behaviour of Myrmarachne, ant-like jumping spiders (Araneae, Salticidae). Zool J Linn Soc 110:77–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jackson RR, Brassington RJ, Rowe RJ (1990) Anti-predator defences of Pholcus phalangioides (Araneae, Pholcidae), a web-building and web-invading spider. J Zool (Lond) 220:543–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jackson RR, Pollard SD, Cerveira AM (2002) Opportunistic use of cognitive smokescreens by araneophagic jumping spiders. Anim Cogn 5:147–157CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Laing DJ (1988) The prey and predation behaviour of the wasp Pison morosum (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae). NZ Entomol 11:37–42Google Scholar
  23. Land MF (1969) Structure of the retinae of the principal eyes of jumping spiders (Salticidae: Dendryphantinae) in relation to visual optics. J Exp Biol 51:443–470PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Lengagne T, Aubin T, Lauga J, Jouventin P (1999) How do king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) apply the mathematical theory of information to communicate in windy conditions? Proc R Soc Lond B 266:1623–1628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Li D, Jackson RR, Barrion AT (1999) Parental and predatory behaviour of Scytodes sp., an araneophagic spitting spider (Araneae: Scytodidae) from the Philippines. J Zool (Lond) 247:193–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lloyd JE (1975) Aggressive mimicry in Photuris fireflies: signal repertoires by femmes fatales. Science 187:452–453CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Ord TJ, Peters RA, Clucas B, Stamps JA (2007) Lizards speed up visual displays in noisy motion habitats. Proc R Soc Lond B 274:1057–1062CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Peters RA, Hemmi JM, Zeil J (2007) Signaling against the wind: modifying motion-signal structure in response to increased noise. Curr Biol 17:1231–1234CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Pietsch TW, Grobecker DB (1978) The compleat angler: aggressive mimicry in an antennariid anglerfish. Science 201:369–370CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Tarsitano M, Jackson RR, Kirchner WH (2000) Signals and signal choices made by the araneophagic jumping spider Portia fimbriata while hunting the orb-weaving web spiders Zygiella x-notata and Zosis geniculatus. Ethology 106:595–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wickler W (1968) Mimicry in plants and animals. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  32. Wignall AE, Taylor PW (2008) Biology and life history of the araneophagic assassin bug Stenolemus bituberus including a morphometric analysis of the instars (Heteroptera, Reduviidae). J Nat Hist 42:59–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wignall AE, Taylor PW (2009) Alternative predatory tactics of an araneophagic assassin bug (Stenolemus bituberus). Acta Ethol 12:23–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wilcox SR, Jackson RR, Gentile K (1996) Spiderweb smokescreens: spider trickster uses background noise to mask stalking movements. Anim Behav 51:313–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wise DH (1993) Spiders in ecological webs. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wygodzinsky PW (1966) A monograph of the Emesinae (Reduviidae, Hemiptera). Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 133:1–614Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Brain, Behaviour and EvolutionMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations