Notes on Scytodes thoracica

Scytodes thoracica Gloucs Copyright: Tone Killick
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Scytodes thoracica Latreille, 1807: A Strange Way of Feeding? by J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson

From The Newsletter No. 84 March 1999

Last year was an extraordinary one for our tiny walled garden in central London. After a winter with only one night of frost, we suffered from aphids even more than usual. Moreover, there were fewer ladybird beetles and hoverflies. The first bumblebee and a 7-spot ladybird made their appearances on 30th March. At that time there were several tineid moths around indoors, but I could not find where they were breeding. April was the wettest in 150 years, July the warmest on record, and I had the worst asthma for 40 years. On 7th August, a comma butterfly visited the garden (I had previously found a larva) but we did not have the usual swarms of gnats beneath the branches of the crab-apple tree. Throughout that month and September, there were innumerable baby araneids hanging on their threads, both indoors and outside. On 1st September, a queen hornet came into the study and I let her out through the window.

The climax came on 29th August when I found a halfgrown Scytodes thoracica in the cloakroom. The last time I had come across a spitting spider was at Uplyme in Dorset, four years ago. In captivity, the Scytodes fed on mosquitoes and young clubionids in the normal way: spraying 'gum' to entrap them, then biting them on the thorax and cephalothorax, respectively. However, when the Scytodes was faced with an immature Theridion, a struggle lasting 20 minutes ensued. The Scytodes would grab at the legs of the partly immobilised Theridion, but was vigorously repulsed. Eventually its adversary's struggles decreased and the Scytodes began to feed from the end of one of its legs. Gradually, over a period of more than an hour, it managed to suck out the entire body contents of its victim through this leg, as though drinking through a straw. Is this the usual behaviour of Scytodes when feeding on formidable prey?
Added by John Partridge at 20:25 on Fri 24th Feb 2012. Return to Summary for Scytodes thoracica