The Power of Stupefying Spiders Possessed by Wasps


WITH reference to my letter on this subject (NATURE, vol. xviii. p. 695), Mr. Arthur Nicols writes me his disbelief that the pretended taking of the poison of snakes internally as a supposed antidote or prophylactic against the bite is anything more than a juggle of those chartered charlatans, the snake-charmers of India; or that it can be so taken with impunity. Of the wasps he says: “I dare say you know that one of the mason wasps of Australia glues its egg to the inside wall of the mud nest, and always at the top, while the rest of the space is filled with spiders. The sting of this wasp is a terrible affair. I was rendered quite comatose for several hours by being stung in the knee” [which, by the way, is precisely the condition of the spiders], “and the pain was most excruciating, with aching and swelling of the inguinal and axillary glands. I don't know whether the wasp stings the spiders, but they are always in a good state of preservation, even when the egg is on the point of hatching. I never found one in the least decomposed. The nest, however, is hermetically sealed, and decomposition could hardly take place, because so very small a quantity of oxygen is inclosed within.” It will be remembered that Mr. Armit remarked “a constant movement in the legs of the spiders”, and that observation has been made before.

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CECIL, H. The Power of Stupefying Spiders Possessed by Wasps. Nature 19, 54 (1878).

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