MONSTER BUG WARS | Death at Midnight | S1E1


Narrator: ln a bug’s world,
life is always in the balance. There are so many ways to die. Around every corner,
super-strength assassins… They are just incredibly fast
with enormous force. Narrator:
…bizarre weapons… They have absolutely
insatiable appetite. Narrator:
…and ruthless personalities. They are incredibly effective
predators. Narrator: Every day
these battles are waged, hidden from human eyes, in the secret world
of Monster Bug Wars. The rainforest — rich, beautiful, frightening. Monsters live here, hiding in the darkest,
dankest corners. They’re the stuff of nightmares. When a giant rainforest mantis confronts a spiny leaf insect, it’s a monster battle. lt’s one of the rainforest’s
most bizarre citizens… …a creature so strange,
it could be from another world. ln the bug world,
spiny leaf insects are giants, growing up to five inches long. They’re not only big,
they’re ugly. Spiny leaf insect
wants to avoid a fight. lts first defense is the fact
that it looks like a leaf. lf a predator does
get past the camouflage and detect a spiny leaf insect, it’ll then rely on its behavior
to try to scare off a predator by making itself look big
and mean and horrible, like some sort of alien predator
from another planet. Narrator: Nature often saves
scariness for the vegetarians. You see, they need to deter
their predators rather than fight them. Although it looks like
some kind of battle bot, the creature
isn’t naturally aggressive. lts heavy armor and razor spikes
are for defense — an almost impenetrable shield. And if a predator
does try to take a bite, it’ll get a mouthful
of those spikes. The spiny leaf insect
also keeps a secret weapon. Dr. Fry: lf threatened, the spiny leaf insect will
resort to chemical warfare. lt has glands that’ll squirt out this colorless,
but extremely stinky, liquid that’ll deter most predators. Narrator:
A stinking, ugly, spiky giant should be left alone, but in the rainforest, there’s one creature
who’s not so easily deterred. lt’s an evolutionary
success story — the giant rainforest mantis, a strong-arm assassin
and stealthy ninja rolled into one. Mantis need to eat all the time,
so they’re very hungry. They’re looking for prey
all the time. They’re on duty all day long. Turns out that they’re one
of the top rainforest predators. Narrator: lt’s the T. Rex
of the bug world. With a powerful stance
and lethal forearms, spikes, and lightning-fast
grappling hooks ensure nothing escapes. Dr. Rayor:
The strike could happen anywhere from .030 to .050 of a second. So this is like
1 /20 of a blink of an eye. Mantids engage
in aggressive mimicry, and what this means is they camouflage themselves
so their prey doesn’t see them. Matching in
with the vegetation — in this case,
our giant rainforest mantid is a nice green. lt blends in. Prey items that are walking by, they just don’t see the mantid
until it’s simply too late. Narrator:
This hapless grasshopper
never stood a chance. There’s one more thing about
the giant rainforest mantis. lt eats its victims alive. Dr. Rayor: They’re pretty good
at orienting their bites toward the head
of whatever they’ve captured, and essentially once you’ve
taken the head off of anything, it stops struggling
much more rapidly. Narrator: The best defense
against the mantis is to avoid it at all costs. But that’s not always easy. This spiny leaf insect is out
looking for a leafy meal… Unaware it’s venturing into giant rainforest mantis
territory. Dr. Fry: The spiny leaf insect
is a browser. lt’s a vegetarian. Think of it basically
as the cow of the insect world. Just spends most of the day
hanging out in the tree, chewing on the leaves,
minding its own business. Narrator:
The leaf insect has attracted
the attention of the mantis. And when these two giants of the
rainforest come face-to-face… Neither backs down. The mantis
is the natural aggressor. lt’s sizing up
the monster before it. Dr. Rayor: No predator wants to
be injured by its prey. lf it’s going to attack, it needs to make a trade-off,
basically. lf it attacks something, is it going to
successfully kill it and not get injured itself? Narrator: The giant rainforest
mantis has weighed the options. lt’s only a matter of choosing
the moment to strike. But with faith
in its heavy armor, the spiny leaf insect
pushes gamely forward. The mantis’ powerful jaws start
slicing through its victim. The heavy armor is holding. The spiny leaf insect deploys
its chemical weaponry. Dr. Fry: ln a fight,
the spiny leaf insect is going to rely on its armor
to hold out long enough for it to get away. But it’s not very fast. lt will, however,
keep spraying the chemicals, but unless a predator
gets a perfect shot and gets deterred by that, it’s only a matter of time
until it’s dinner. Narrator: The spiny leaf insect
has to break free soon before it’s devoured. Breaching the armor, the more the mantis eats,
the less its victim can fight. lt’s a race
through the first course. Mantis mouthparts
work overtime as cutlery. Mandibles slice and dice,
while feelers fork it in. Another life ends
in the rainforest. What the mantis can’t eat,
others will. The giant mantis is happy
to share now — it’s full. And there’s a mess to clean up. ln the miniature world
of monster bugs, life-spans can last just weeks, perhaps days, even hours. Death lies around every corner, and strength is no protection. What happens
when a powerful bull ant comes face-to-face
with a redback spider? Only one will live another day. ln the ant world,
life is all about the colony. Ants work as a team —
all for one and one for all. But for this species,
going solo is allowed. lt’s even encouraged. This is the bull ant. Growing up to 1 inch long, it’s one of the world’s
largest… Big enough to fend for itself. lts huge jaws
are fearsome enough. They lock like a vice,
inescapable. But it’s the other end
you really need to worry about. This lethal stinger delivers
venom in multiple doses. Dr. Fry:
The bull ant sting is one of the most painful
things in the world, and unlike a bee, they can sting
over and over and over again. Narrator:
For the bull ant, the world is a chaotic landscape
of sights and smells, so it needs hyperactive antennae
and bulging eyes. But the bull ant
has something else. Twin claws on every foot give it the powers
of an action hero with attitude. The bull ant is the pit bull
of the insect world. He’s aggressive, fearless,
and will take on any opponent, even those
much larger than himself. Narrator:
To the uninitiated, the bull ant
can be mistaken as vain. lt looks like
it’s constantly grooming, but it’s actually cleaning
its sensors for battle. lt has to be on guard every moment
it’s away from the colony. There’s no backup
if it runs into trouble. And this is trouble — the deadly redback spider. From the black widow family, she’s renowned
for her super-to xic venom and lightning speed. But the redback has something
else for the unwary — a super-engineered web. lt has a number of lines
going down that are just covered
with globs of glue so that if something
walks into these lines, they tend to break the lines. And at that point, the spider
comes down and nabs the prey. Narrator: She specializes
in tailor-made straitjackets. With lightning speed, she spins a suffocating silk
suit that’s only worn once. The way the redback gets
the silk out of the spinnerets is on the fourth leg,
it has a comb, and it combs the silk out
of its spinnerets. Spider silk is considered to be
stronger than steel. lt’s considered to be
the strongest biopolymer known. Narrator: Few creatures
leave a redback’s web. And the bigger they are,
the harder they fall. Narrator:
This bull ant still hasn’t
found dinner for its colony. lt forages deeper into a log… …unaware
of the deadly trap ahead. Although the redback
is venomous, actually, her most important
weapon is her web, and her web is like kevlar
dripping with superglue. Narrator:
One false step is enough. The redback races
to weave a deadly suit. But she has to be quick. lf those jaws get her,
or that stinger, the tables will turn. All the bull ant needs
is one single sting, and the redback spider is dead. Narrator:
The bull ant’s jaws are trapped. A sting shot is its only hope. But its captor is weaving
at lightning speed. Every second makes it
harder and harder to move. But as it’s hoisted up, the ant breaks free
and tries to bite. The bull ant has these
incredible powerful mandibles that can give
a really nasty bite. lt’s like you have a vice
that’s combined with a saw. Narrator: The spider
needs a better suit, fast. Again, her wraps subdue the ant. Only now can the redback
get close enough to inject its venom. The deadly brew flows
through two tiny fangs. The venom is going to attack
the nerves of the bull ant, killing it almost immediately. Narrator: All the spider
needs to do is wait… As her victim dies
in a silk shroud. Far from the safety
of its colony, a bull ant pays the price
for going solo. No one heard it scream. l don’t think a redback
that had fallen out of her web, or was out of her web
wandering on the ground had any chance
against a bull ant. But a redback that’s in her web, she has total control
of the situation. Narrator:
ln nature’s tiny world, an ant’s life means something. For this skillful redback, it’s a fresh meal before
she’s ready to kill again. The world is crawling with bugs. Half of all known species
on our planet are insects. Some crawl on land.
Others lurk beneath it. Some climb.
Others live in the sky. There is no escaping bugs. Even the water is not safe. What happens
when a water strider takes a swim
with a water spider? lt’s time to run. But there’s nowhere to hide. Some call him the Jesus bug because he, too,
can walk on water, although he prefers to jump
at lightning speed. Dr. Fry:
lf something tries to catch him, his best defense is to just
skate across the water. But he can also use the water
like a trampoline and jump up in the air. They can travel 1 00 body lengths
in a single second. Narrator:
lt’s like a 6-foot-tall human taking off
at 400 miles per hour. More incredible still, the water strider
never gets wet. Along each leg, thousands
of tiny hairs trap air bubbles, and this makes
a waterproof coat. Also helping
to keep the water walker dry is surface tension on a pond. Buoyed by this skin of water, the strider
wields a lethal weapon. lt’s a giant proboscis
that spears and kills its prey. lt also doubles as a drinking
straw for insect innards. Like a hypodermic needle
on legs. His bite is main. Narrator: A small creature
that can’t handle the water soon becomes bug slurpee. Water striders
feed on the water surface. They’re basically an undertaker
who make the sick and dying die. Narrator: The water strider turns any pond
into a battleground. But it doesn’t have the field
to itself. The water spider is just as comfortable on a pond
as it is on land. Water spiders
are able to travel across water much more effectively than most other spiders
or many other invertebrates. lf they were a car, they’re moving on the order
of 300 miles an hour. l mean, they’re just
incredibly fast spiders. Narrator: Though this female
is bigger than the strider, she still doesn’t sink
or get wet. She also relies on tiny hairs
to make an air suit. Even more astonishing, she has tiny claws
at the tip of each leg, giving her incredible grip
on the water surface. And when a potential meal
like this fly hits the water, it telegraphs ripples straight
to the spider’s sensors. Dr. Rayor: By putting their feet
at the water’s edge, they’re responding very closely to vibrations
coming from the water. They’re exquisitely sensitive
to those vibrations. Narrator: There are worse ways
to go than drowning. You can be killed
and eaten inside out. ln a face-off between these two
floating attack machines, it all comes down
to who moves first. The spider is strong and fast, but the strider is even faster. lt’ll be a case
of the quick or the dead. Narrator:
These water striders are drifting around the pond
with the wind. At the water’s edge, the spider dangles
her sensitive feet, picking up
the slightest movement. The striders, too,
are feeling for vibrations. But they’re unaware of the
spider hidden against the rock. Dr. Rayor: They tend to be
very nicely camouflaged. Often, they have coloring
that up against rockfaces, you just don’t see them. Narrator: Unaware, two striders
have drifted into easy range. One uses its lightning speed
to escape. The other is not so lucky. Deadly venom
shoots into the strider. lt will never know
what happened. Dr. Rayor:
The fangs are used to squish
the prey up, to some extent. lt is simultaneously
regurgitating digestive enzymes. So what they’re basically doing
is they’re dissolving the prey, turning it
into a protein milkshake, and then sucking it down. Narrator:
The strider is turned to liquid. The water strider was in the
wrong place at the wrong time to mess with a water spider. Narrator:
ln Bug Waterworld, no one gets wet, but you can become a drink. There’s no place
like home, sweet home, unless you’re a bug. Keeping a single address
is sometimes impossible when your neighbors are nasty. And you may have to fight
to keep your home. Who gets the spoils when a white-tailed spider tries
to evict a black house spider? One thing’s for sure — no one will leave
without a fight. Like us, some bugs invest
a lot of work in their home. This black house spider has found just the right hole
in just the right tree, then added improvements — a vast web around the entrance, superglued
to the surrounding bark. The lightest touch on the silk
transmits straight to home base. Dr. Rayor:
Black house spiders really are completely attuned
to vibrations. They’re not using vision to find their prey
or to avoid predators. lt really is
this acute sensitivity to vibrations in their web. Narrator: Few creatures
see this ambush coming. A venomous bite seals the deal. But the spider doesn’t
stay on the street for long. lt always eats in. Not all spiders are homebodies. Some are drifters, like this white-tailed spider. She’s not tied down
with webs and maintenance. She’s a roaming assassin
who prefers to eat out. Dr. Fry: The white-tailed spider
is not fussy. lt’ll eat pretty much anything
that it can encounter, but its favorite meal
is the black house spider. Narrator: Today,
the white-tail is ravenous. She’s like a bloodhound, sniffing scent trails
from potential victims. But she’s not using her nose. She doesn’t have one. The tips of her legs are
equipped with scopulate hairs. Underneath the hairs
are chemical sensors that guide her to her target. Dr. Fry:
Because the white-tailed spider
uses its feet so much, it’s absolutely important that
it keeps them very, very clean. Narrator:
And those chemical sensors have just detected
a black house spider. Dr. Fry: White-tail doesn’t
bother too much with a defense. This is an animal
that’s all about offense. lt goes out looking for trouble. lt starts the fights
and it finishes them. Narrator: This white-tailed
spider is cruising for dinner. She has no web, no family ties,
no fixed abode. Further up the tree, this black house spider
lives a different lifestyle. lt’s set an elaborate web
outside its permanent home. Now it’s monitoring
for vibrations, hoping whatever’s coming
will be another meal. But the white-tail
has an ingenious plan. lt’ll use the black house
spider’s own web to lure it out. The black house is being played
like an old fiddle. Dr. Fry:
White-tail is a trickster. lt’ll sit there and pluck
on another spider’s web, mimicking a prey
trapped in there, and then nails it
like lightning. Narrator:
The black house takes the bait. lt’s expecting an easy meal. But it finds a mortal enemy. The black house
throws a decoy — its own leg. Losing a leg
is actually a super strategy for getting away
from a predator. This black house spider has sphincters that are able
to close off the blood flow so the spider
doesn’t bleed to death. lt’s far better off losing a leg
than losing its life. Narrator: The white-tail is left
with just a spider drumstick. Now she retreats
to her rival’s abandoned house and seals the door
to eat in peace. Dr. Fry: The white-tailed spider
is a wanderer. lt doesn’t stay very long
in any one place, but in this case, now that it has a nice big meal
in its stomach, it’ll sit there and squat in what used to be
the black house spider’s home. Narrator: But the owner’s back
and fighting mad. lt plans to repossess its house. This time, a body strike
stuns the black house. Dropping limbs
won’t help it now. Venom rushes into its body,
killing it. There’s one final indignity. The black house spider will be
consumed in its own home. ln bug realty, you can be evicted and eaten
on the same day. ln the art of war,
bugs are true virtuosos. They have evolved
so many ways to kill, they leave humans in the dust. But it’s nearly always
hand-to-hand combat. And every victory is hard-won. When a wolf spider meets
a Sydney funnel-web spider, it’s a deadly contest
between the old and the new. Although there are
almost 40,000 species of spider, they come
in two main categories — modern or primitive. Like this Sydney funnel-web,
a dinosaur. lt’s changed little
over millions of years. Dr. Rayor:
ln terms of temperament, the Sydney funnel-webs are just
ill-tempered, cranky spiders. Narrator: lt’s the grumpy old
man of the bug world. lt’s still around today because
it’s a successful hunter, and the key
to its reign are these… …two of the biggest, most
powerful jaws in spider land… Backed by super venom. You don’t survive for
several hundred million years without being
effective predators and being good at what you do. So the funnel-webs may not have
many diverse behaviors, but in fact, what they do,
they do very well. Narrator:
But there are downsides
to being spider version 1 .0. lt can hardly see
from its eight eyes. lts lumbering frame
isn’t very fast. And its lungs
are underdeveloped, so it’s exhausted quickly. lt mostly lies in wait in moist,
shady corners of the forest… With a small web funnel
at the entrance. Dr. Rayor:
What characterizes these webs
is it has a narrow funnel, or a narrow retreat,
that the spider lives in. So it may have a hole in a log
that’s covered in silk, and then it runs out
from this retreat in order to capture prey. The Sydney funnel-web is not
only a seriously cranky spider, but they really tend
not to back off. They’re really
an ill-natured spider. Their fangs are oriented
parallel to one another, and so they strike down. And the way the funnel-web
does this is it rears its carapace up and then strikes repeatedly down
with enormous force. The force is reputed to be
sufficient to kill a mouse, to crush a mouse skull. Narrator:
This cricket came too close. And the funnel-web’s
caveman table manners make short work of any prey. While it may be showing its age, the funnel web is always ready
to take on newcomers. This is spider version 2.0,
evolving much later. The modern wolf spider
is faster, stronger, and loaded with stamina. The wolf spider is so fast
on its feet, it can cover two feet
in a single second. That would be the equivalent of me doing a 1 00-meter dash
in one second. Narrator:
With state-of-the-art eyes, nothing escapes its attention. Dr. Fry:
The wolf spider has four large
eyes on the top of its head, but also has four smaller eyes coming across
in a row in the front. This gives it
fantastic night vision, and some of the best vision
of any spider. Narrator: lt lies in wait
for a hapless victim like this cricket. He is fast and powerful — basically,
the cheetah of the spider world. He hits his prey so fast
and so hard, they literally get bowled over. Narrator:
Sharp-eyed, fleet-footed,
packing powerful venom, the wolf spider
is a major upgrade from its primitive cousin. Though it can out-stalk
and out-run any contemporary, sometimes it has to face off
with its prehistoric past in a test of evolution. Dr. Fry:
The wolf spider’s best defense is his ability to out-run
or out-jump pretty much anyone. Although wolf spiders
are faster, wolf spiders
have vision on their side, l don’t think wolf spiders
are as intrinsically tough and ill-natured
as a Sydney funnel-web is. [ owl hooting ] Narrator:
lt’s a full moon, and the wolf spider
is on the prowl, night vision and advanced
weaponry ready to go. Also on the offense —
a funnel-web, its legs sensing the slightest
movement on its trip lines. Dr. Rayor:
The funnel-webs will rear up, and you can see venom dripping
out of the tips of their fangs. And they will stay in this
position for 1 0, 1 5 minutes, ready to strike should the potential predator
or prey come any closer. Narrator: The encounter
quickly turns into a standoff as two killers close enough
to touch weigh their next move. Dr. Fry:
lt’s a tricky standoff, like two gunfighters waiting
for the other one to flinch. The funnel-web spider
has bigger fangs, but the wolf spider
has the speed. Narrator:
One thing is for certain — the next move will be fatal. The funnel-web strikes first. As the funnel-web’s massive jaws
rip open the wolf spider, venom floods in. Today, old beats new. Ancient history wins the day. Although dinosaurs never made it
to our present day, it’s a different story
in the bug world. Here, living history proves
that new isn’t always better. ln a monster bug war,
you’re either victor or victim. Camouflage is no defense
against a ruthless assault. A lethal stinger is powerless
encased in a silk coffin. Speed is no match
for stealth and cunning. And sacrificing a limb
is no guarantee of success. When bugs go to war, only the victor
lives to fight another day.