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:
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:
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?
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:
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:
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:
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?
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.
- The Private Lives of Spiders, by Paul Hillyard, © 2007 New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd. ↩