Bolas spiders deceive and exploit to get their meals delivered straight to them
Bolas spiders are sneaky creatures, using scent to lure prey to them. Each species emits a blend of chemicals that accurately mimics the sex pheromones of a single species or small group of moths. Thinking they smell a potential mate, the unsuspecting insects fly towards the source and are promptly ambushed. Juvenile and adult male spiders adopt the simple tactic of grabbing moths with their front legs, while females catch their meals with a bolas – a sticky blob of silk swung on a line.
One species, Mastophora hutchinsoni, takes things to another level. Moth species fly at different times, so throughout an evening’s hunt this sophisticated trickster changes the scent it produces. When one moth is no longer in the air, the spider switches the blend of chemicals and begins to mimic a species that emerges later in the night to maximise the number of courses in that day’s feast.