I saw the commotion from about 40 yards. Lots of wing flapping and movement. I took a break from trout fishing and quickly approached the action. My camera was out and I started taking photos from 30 feet out. Not many of the far off photos turn out well. When I got closer I saw a huge dark colored spider in a battle with a big butterfly.
The spider was having its way with the butterfly. The spider was so large I was afraid to get close to it at first. It looked very busy trying to consume this butterfly so I took my chances and got a couple close ups of the death match. The butterfly was really struggling and I felt sorry for it it and I gave the spider a nudge with the end of my rod and it quickly retreated down the stalk of the vegetation it was on.
The butterfly sat there for a while putting itself back together. The spider made a couple more runs up the stalk to try to resume the battle but, I blocked it each time. The butterfly flew away. The HUGE spider then went on with its search for food. They hunt on the surface of still or slow-moving fresh water. They row themselves across the surface supported by the surface tension, and can also sail across on the wind.
Initially I believed the spider to be a Wolf Spider. I went on the internet to search spiders and I narrowed the type of spider to either a Wolf Spider or a Fishing Spider. The eyes of the spider were what made me think it was NOT a Wolf Spider. I sent away the photo to a insect specialist at the University Of Madison Wisconsin. Five months after my query I got an email back and the Professor identified the spider as a female Fishing Spider. He also said the butterfly was a Question Mark Butterfly.
Identification: Forewing hooked; upperside is red-orange with black spots. Upperside hindwing of summer form is mostly black with a short tail; that of winter form has much orange and a longer, violet-tipped tail. Underside is light brown; hindwing with pearly white question mark in center.
Wing Span: 2 1/4 - 3 inches
The large female Fishing Spiders have a body that reaches about 1? long. When outstretched legs are included in the measurements, the animal can measure over 3? long. Female fishing spiders are bigger than males and males are some times eaten by the female after mating. Fishing Spiders mostly bite humans only in self-defense. A bite from a Fishing Spider will swell up and burn for about 10 minutes and the bite will take 2-5 days to disappear. No special medical attention is needed from a Fishing Spider bite. Fishing Spiders can live for 2 years maximum. Spiders are placed in the same group with scorpions and ticks.
The Fishing spider lives near water; they walk on the surface of water and dive underneath it to feed on aquatic insects and even small fish. Their legs are highly sensitive to vibrations sent out by floating insects, especially those in distress. The spider will rapidly approach the prey, inject it with venom, then drag it away to eat it in peace. They typically will not eat the wings of insects due to them having no nutritional value to them. They have also been known to dangle a leg under the water surface in order to attract small fish, which they then capture by making a sudden plunge, holding the fish in the powerful legs while subduing it with venom.
Fishing Spiders stalking their prey rather than snaring it in webs. They run freely over water in pursuit of prey. When frightened, they may dive beneath the surface. Fishing spiders' main prey is aquatic insects, but they are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything suitable that happens within range. Fishing Spiders have been observed catching and eating small fish. The Fishing Spider sometimes stray quite far from water and may even be found in dry wooded areas. Some of them enter houses, where they may be found in basements, kitchens, and even bedrooms.
When you arise in the morning, think of what a
precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think,
to enjoy, to love.
- Marcus Aurelius