baby spider, big spider

I’ve been watching a couple of spiders in my native plant garden since late August. I can’t say with complete certainty, but I’m hoping this photo shows the next generation of the spider families that have been thriving in my Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) and a patch of what may or may not be Hummingbird Mint (Agastache cana). Anyway, what you should be seeing here is a tiny little spider in the center of an intricate web, with the silhouette of a much larger spider looming in the background. Pretty cool, huh?Here is a closeup of the little (baby) spider:

baby spider closeup

I can’t tell you what type of spider this is, but I kind of doubt it’s the same species as the large spider seen in the distance. I’m wondering if it could be the offspring of this spider:

Lynx Spider (Peucetia sp.)

Lynx Spider (Peucetia sp.)

Mom-spider guarding her eggs

Mom-spider guarding her eggs

Taken from a book I’m currently reading, the following passage about Lynx spiders describes how the mothers will guard their egg sac to the point of starving to death:

Female lynx spiders do not carry their egg-sacs with them but attach them, with a mesh of silk threads, to a plant and stand guard over them. Being unable to hunt and stand guard at the same time, however, the mother eventually dies. 1

When I read this, my heart ached at the idea of a mother giving her life to protect her young. I suppose that for spiders, “instinct” may be an appropriate way to describe the behavior. I wonder, is it any different in people? And do we just call it love?

mother lynx spider, 10 days later

mother lynx spider, 10 days later

mother lynx spider

I took the two photos above 10 days after the first set and I was  unable to tell if she was still alive. I do know that she is no longer there now. I’ve glanced hurriedly at the place where she so vigilantly guarded her egg sac–it’s still there, but I’m not sure if it is empty or not!

As for the large spider in the background of the intro photo, she is an Orbweaver, probably a Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia). I first saw one of these late this summer at my neighbor’s house, but THIS one is residing in MY native plant garden – yay! I took pictures of this particular spider and her web 4 times between 8/14/09 and 10/08/09, and was surprised to see how her body seemed to swell and shrink. At first I thought she might be pregnant–then I thought maybe hungry and full. For all I know, it could have been both…but here are the pictures so you can see for yourself:

8/14/09:

yellow garden spider, top view

yellow garden spider-closeup

yellow garden spider at 100%

We can see that she has something to eat – no idea what it is. Note the body size in relation to her legs.

The next time I took her picture was on 8/25/09:

Oh my gosh - same spider (right?)

Oh my gosh - same spider (right?)

yellow garden spider, plump, underside

I am assuming this is the same spider – I found myself looking for her each day and always finding her in the same spot. Unless they timeshare the same web, this is our girl – only obviously more full-figured. Would it be bad form to ask if she is pregnant? :-)

I took her picture again on 8/29/09:

yellow garden spider, 8/29/09

yellow garden spider, 8/29/09, underside

She looks much the same four days later, though if I had to say if her body was bigger or smaller, I’d go with slightly smaller.

After I took her picture on this beautiful day, we had a series of rainstorms, and her web must have been blown apart and washed away. I was a little sad she was gone, since I’d been checking in on her daily and even showing her off to my family and friends. “Look at my spider!” I’d exclaim and point.

Much to my delight, I walked by my garden more than a month later, and once again saw a yellow garden spider in a web in the same place. Could it be the same spider? Or maybe just an ideal location for all of the Yellow Garden Spiders in town?

yellow garden spider, 10/8/09

yellow garden spider, 10/8/09, underside

This is the last I have seen of my spider, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be seeing her again this season. It was fun to watch her habits and note her neat web, complete with her zigzag signature.

After watching my spiders for several months, I’ve found that I’ve cultivated quite an affinity for spiders in general. It’s fun, too, because there always seem to be spiders around to look at. When you start paying closer attention, it is easy to see that there are really many different kinds of spiders. Different colors, shapes, sizes, hangouts. Kinda like birds…

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little tribute to a couple of spiders who contributed to my ever-growing love of, and respect for, nature.

  1. The Private Lives of Spiders, by Paul Hillyard, © 2007 New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd.

7 Responses to “Singin’ a Song of Spiders”

  • Absolutely spectacular! Spiders don’t get the respect they deserve–and I have a major crush on them (like most critters, I know, but true spiders really hold a special place in my list of loves).

    Argiope aurantia is one of my favorites for its intimidating size and docile personality–not to mention its beauty. You’ve really done a fabulous job of capturing that in all of these photos. Wow!

    Your little spider looks like a lined orbweaver (Mangora gibberosa). The angle makes it a bit hard to say for certain, but it’s definitely an orb weaver (yes, call me a master of the obvious!).

    And no doubt the coolest spider in the state with its translucent glass-like spotted legs and ambush wait-and-take hunting approach, the green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans). She’s a marvelous specimen, Amber!

    What a stunning post…

  • Thanks so much, Jason. Today was really exciting, because I walked over for a closer look at the spot where the Lynx spider had been. I saw the brown egg sac, and it had spider babies! (spiderlings?)

    I looked even closer, and was astonished to see that the mother was still there! I thought she looked a bit shrunken…but I went to get my camera anyway. When I came back – no mom spider…until I looked down the stalk. She was alive! Woohoo! I got lots of pictures – Will post an update soon. :-)

  • Awesome photos and post. Jason has nailed all the IDs, so I have little of value to add other than to say once again, awesome photos!

  • Yosista:

    Masista, I have heard that most of the spider babies hatched get eaten by the mother … is that only true for certain species?

    • I’ve checked a couple of books and looked around on the web, and it looks like some species of spiders are known to engage in “filial cannibalism,” which is eating their young. Apparently, there are many observed combinations of male and female spiders eating spiderlings, the spiderlings eating each other, and even a species where the spiderlings eat the mother (who has already passed away). My overall impression from what I’ve read is that spiders lay lots of eggs so that the species will survive the many perils of their youth, but they generally have more to fear from other predators. This behavior is not unique to spiders – frogs are another example. Quiz in 5 minutes. :-)

  • I am an artist who shares your enthusiasm for this BEAUTIFUL Argiope aurantia (Black and Yellow Garden) Spider —- watching and photographing her all season long, in my garden, too! I have decided to draw her in full color and was so happy to come across your submission here. I work at a gallery where people come by and watch me. I love to educate people not only about my art but especially about the subject matter. Your story will be shared with those who come by, especially the children. If you want to watch the progression of this drawing go to http://www.facebook.com/PencilArtPlus. If you would like I can include your webpage site for others to enjoy too! Let me know. I will be starting it this week of Jan. 20, 2014.

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