A fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias, but even spiders fear the crafty assassin bug. According to the New Scientist, one Australian researcher has observed how assassin bugs use spiders’ own webs against them.
Anne Wignall at Macquarie University in Sydney placed assassin bugs on the webs of five species of spider and watched as the saga unfolded. She found that the bugs repeatedly stalked or lured their prey.
In stalking mode, the bugs slink towards their prey while masking their steps by tapping or bouncing on the web at irregular intervals. The choppy pattern of vibrations confuses the spider and creates a “smokescreen” that renders the bug undetectable to the spider.
When the assassin bugs want to lure the spiders in for an easy kill they pluck the threads with their forelegs in a way that resembles the movements of an insect trapped in the web. "The spider thinks it's getting a meal, but instead gets eaten itself," says Wignall.
The study also revealed that assassin bugs aren’t over-eager to attack their victims. They pause to tap their prey with their antennae before striking. Robert Jackson of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya says this tactic may hypnotize the spiders, reducing their ability to respond to the attack.
There are several thousand species of assassin bugs, but I wonder if there is one brave enough to take down the world’s largest spider, which checks in at 4 to 5 inches in diameter.