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Spiders are extraordinary creatures

January 26, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I want to write about spiders--to express my admiration for their beauty and extraordinary attributes. Spiders are Arachnids, not Insects. Some notable differences: spiders have eight legs, insects have six; spider bodies have two sections, not three like insects, and spiders do not have antennae. Spiders eat insects and can't exist without them.

Some people are terrified of spiders.  I'm not sure why. Is it the way they look? their many eyes (most spiders have eight) and eight legs? Or is it their stealthy behavior? their lightning-fast movement? the way they sit, wait then pounce, bite, and wrap their totally helpless prey so fast that the victim has zero chance of escape?  Think what you will, but these qualities I call fascinating.

Not all spiders make webs, but all spiders make silk. Spider silk has been called one of nature's miracles, for it possesses immense strength and flexibility. Researchers have long tried but have not yet figured out how to fabricate a material that is equal to it.

Most spider webs are designed to capture prey, some are made to serve only as nurseries. Who hasn't been drawn to the splendor and mystery of a spider web?  Spider webs also catch sunlight and water.

an Orb-Weaver Spider web

 

a Funnel Spider web

Since spiders are major insect-predators, it's not surprising I frequently encounter them. Here are a few I have seen, and when I came upon each of them I was drawn in to admire, watch, and wonder.

Enoplognatha ovata or Candy-stripe Spider with bee-mimic fly

 

A few years ago (July 2013) I wrote about this Candy-stripe Spider that had caught a bee-mimic fly.  It's a crab spider belonging to the family Thomisidae. Crab spiders do not build webs and many species, such as this one, hunt for their food while hiding out on flowers.

 

crab spider
Great Meadow NWLR

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is another crab spider species, lovely in yellow and green, patiently waiting on matching wild flowers.

 

 

 

This beautiful Cross Orb-weaver, Araneus diadematus, occupied our porch for a week.  She created a new web every day.  Wishing not to disturb her, we used a different door from which to go in and out of the house. Her hunting method was interesting. Instead of hiding out on a far edge of her web, she hung upside down (as you see here) right in the middle of it.  With one leg hooked onto the signal line, she waited for a disturbance that would let her know a potential meal had arrived.

 

I'm saving the most incredible looking spider for last. It's the large Yellow and Black Garden Spider, Argiope aurantia, with an icon on its back that, I imagine, could be the envy of many a graffiti artist. This spider builds a very large web and at the center is its signature zig-zag woven with thick strands of silk. The web is good for capturing large insects. I love dragonflies, so imagine my shock when I saw a very large darner caught in one of these webs. I admit I was horrified. But, like the damselfly I saw seized by the robber fly (August 2013), I was also fascinated at what had happened.

It's unavoidable. In my reverence for nature I find it possible to experience beauty, amazement, horror, and love all in a single moment.


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