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Published on May 5, 2012
This may be the first time this type of aggressive butterfly behavior has ever been recorded... While in the process of selecting sites to lay her eggs on a nearby Passionvine plant, this female Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae incarnata) took a particular interest in the spider webs nearby. After hovering in one spot for a bit, she moved in close and started clawing away at the webs, apparently to get at or drive away the small "Daddy Longlegs" spider (Pholcus phalangioides) which was lurking behind them. (Note that "daddy longlegs" is not the correct name for this type of spider, but I used it here as many people are familiar with it...)
This remarkable behavior brings into question just how intelligent a butterfly might be, considering its apparent concern over the presence of a predator which could be a threat to its offspring. Note that the spider and its webs were 3-4 feet (a bit more than 1 meter) away from the vine on which she was preparing to oviposit, but nevertheless she took the time to inspect a great deal of the area around the host plant before actually leaving any eggs there.
Fortunately for the spider it managed to stay just out of reach. Since the butterfly can't bite or sting and only has her legs to use as weapons, it's hard to tell what she might have done to the spider if she had a better shot at it or even managed to catch it... What a show that would have been!
I filmed a great many clips of these Gulf Fritillaries at the Passionvine plant this day, and had no idea at the time why this one was hovering around an area so far from the plant - until I watched it in slow motion later. It's amazing what slowing things down 10x can reveal!
This footage was shot with a Casio EX-F1 high speed camera at 300 frames per second, resulting in a 10x slower-than-real-life playback. The footage was then upscaled to 1280x720 for this video, hence the graininess and pixelation.
The soundtrack is "Oberion" and "Oberion Extension" from the "TimeShift" CD by Technician (yours truly), album and single tracks available on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/time... full artist discography and CDs available at HTTP://technician.jcmdi.com
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