A Florida Caterpillar and other Arthropods Inhabiting the Webs of a Subsocial Spider (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae; Araneida: Theridiidae)

Mark Deyrup, Johanna Kraus, Thomas Eisner

Abstract


Caterpillars of Tallula watsoni Barnes & McDunnough regularly occur in the webs of the subsocial spider Anelosimus studiosus (Hentz) in south Florida. The caterpillars have not been found outside of the spider webs. Caterpillars feed on living and dead leaves that are on twigs incorporated into the webs of the spiders. A wide variety of trees and woody shrubs are accepted. In the laboratory caterpillars did not attack spiders or their prey. Spiders did not normally attack the caterpillars in the laboratory, but did so on two occasions. Pupation occurs in the spider web. We speculate that the spider web provides the caterpillars some protection from generalist predators and parasitoids. We suspect that T. watsoni is an obligate inquiline of A. studiosus. Other inquilines in the spider webs include 13 species of spiders and 10 species of insects. Two insects may have close or obligate relationships with A. studiosus: Ranzovius clavicornis (Knight) (Miridae), a scavenger, and Zatypota crassipes Townes (Ichneumonidae), a parasitoid of A. studiosus.

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