20th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Natural World
Death on a Purple Orchid Flower

The beautiful purple Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis is one of the most frequent orchids found within the protected area of the Babadag Forest, part of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, in Southeastern Romania. Its large inflorescences are true ‘pollinators magnets’, attracting a wide variety of insects, such as bees, flies, butterflies, and beetles. The orchid is often inhabited by female spider crabs, of the species Thomisus onustus, which use the large inflorescences as perfect grounds to hunt for their prey. The crab spiders are solitary ambush predators, also known as sit-and-wait predators. On one of these instances, I noticed a large spider female feasting on a Green-underside Blue butterfly, Glaucopsyche alexis, which just landed naively on its purple flowers. The spiders immobilise the insects with their front legs and inject the lethal venom from their strong, sharp fangs into the insects’ bodies, paralysing them. Seconds after, they start feasting on the freshly caught prey, sucking up the internal juices (Orchids of Romania, by Nora De Angelli & Dan Anghelescu, 2020). Pretty scary, I must admit…

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 08.2022
Date Uploaded: 11.2022
Photo Location: Babadag, Romania
Copyright: © Nora De Angelli