Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox

Sunday, August 3, 2008

An Upside Down Life

The black and yellow garden spider spun her web among the Iris and there she waits, hanging upside down all day, for unsuspecting prey.



She's a gorgeous spider and her web is very unique. Argiope aurantia commonly known as Black and Yellow Garden Spider is an orb weaver. It was her unique web and a trick of oscillating the web back and forth that caught my attention...

video

Researchers believe that the vibration may either serve to scare the predators away or ensnare prey who might be trying to work free of the sticky web. Viewed up close the web is quite a work of art.

"Web construction is complicated.(source) To start the web, Argiope firmly grasps a substrate like a grass stem or window frame. She lifts her abdomen and emits several strands of silk from her spinnerets that merge into one thread. The free end of the thread drifts until it touches something far away, like a stem or a flower stalk. She then creates bridge lines, and other scaffolding to help her build the framework of the web. She builds a hub with threads radiating from it like a spokes of a wheel. She switches to sticky silk for the threads spiraling around this hub that will actually catch her prey. It may take a few hours to complete the web, then she eats the temporary scaffolding and the center hub. Black and yellow spiders often add stabilimenta, or heavy zig-zagging portions, in their webs." There is no certainty among experts about what purpose stabilimenta serves...it could be a place to hide from predators or a warning to birds that there is a web in its flight pattern.

While some Argiope spiders leave webs in place for night hunting, it is not unusual for it to be built and then eaten at the end of the day! Even if she catches no big prey like moths, grasshoppers, June Beetles, aphids or even cicadas, the tiniest insects that were stuck to the sticky web will be her dinner.



Not only is she harmless to humans, she and others of her kind do a lot of good...In addition to the prey listed earlier, they also eat mosquitoes! That's good news to me!




This spider is female, no doubt about it! The male is smaller and a pale imitation of her beautiful coloration. When males reach maturity they leave the egg sack and wander off seeking a mate. Once he finds a female, he begins his courtship. He will build a web near by or attach himself to her web; then he plucks the strands to get her attention. She may attack and if he's a smart spider, he's prepared for the worst and escapes down his safety line. If not he's toast.

What a life. Once he successfully mates he will die....sometimes becoming her dinner. Once she lays her eggs, up to 1400 of them in the egg sacks and secures them to the web she will watch over them as long as she can and then she will die. The baby spiders hatch in late summer and they remain in a dormant state during the winter. They hatch in the spring and begin maturing and moving about in the garden and the cycle continues.

You've got pretty parlor, now catch some mosquitoes for me, it's not flies that are a problem!






If you want to see some great photos of spider webs, I suggest you head over to Faire Garden to see Frances' post Web Walk.

Gail

"Don't worry, spiders
I keep house
casually,"

Haiku by Issa

51 comments:

  1. How timely, we were watching a spider making a web this evening! It was too dark to see his web and it looked as if she was floating in the sky. Spiders are welcome in my garden, just not the Black widow or Brown recluse. Interesting information!

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  2. Hi Gail,
    I'm with Dave too... spiders are welcome in our garden (minus Brown Recluse and Black widows!) too, and I think we've seen ones like this here, and at first I thought it was what we call a yellow barn spider, but it's too small for that. I find their mating/reproductive strategies fascinating. I was really amazed by that female wolf spider I posted recently who was carrying her brood around on her abdomen ... she inevitably made me think of Charlotte of E.B. White fame. And yes, when I read that as a kid, I wept copiously at the end when the little ones all took off into the big bad world... The only childhood books that made me cry more were Beautiful Joe and Old Yeller, which of course starred dogs as the main characters, lol.

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  3. Gail, you always have such informative posts! I am NOT a spider fan_ they really creep me out. I know they kill a lot of 'bad' bugs, but UGH! My grandmother always called theis type an "educated" spider. I think because of the zig-zag. It looks like z's. She was from Ky. and that's what she grew up hearing them called. And yes to the PPPP! Thank you. I am so sorry we can't meet, but mabe Rose can go. Be sure to invite us again.

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  4. Hi Gail, thanks for the surprise link at the end! We have called this a writing or wolf spider our whole lives. I won't be able to remember the latin name, but garden spider is doable. ;-> You are like an encyclopedia, who needs Encarta?
    Frances

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  5. This is probably the most frequent arachnid visitor to my yard in late summer. If we get a lot of rain, the spiders grow big and fat on all the resulting bug growth. Like Frances, we call this the writing spider because the center of the web looks like a piece of text. Thanks for the information.

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  6. Dave,

    Like Issa spiders are even welcome in my house! I remove them gently to another location! Spiders don't bother me and so far I haven'r encountered either the Brown Recluse or the Black Widow! Watching her float must have been magical for your daughter.

    Gail

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  7. I LOVE this spider. When we first moved here there was huge one in the shrubbery. My poor big son was so scared of it! He made me go move it. How funny is that. Good to know they do not hurt you. Great pics and video.

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  8. IVG,
    I remember her photo but can't recall which post or I would link to you, it's not too late! This is a cool spider, she's never left the spot between the iris so it must work for her. Plus she's grown so much!

    There was nothing like Charlotte's Web to make one cry! The movies don't compare to reading. Who says juvenile lit is not good! I missed the article but the followup letters in the NYTimes Book Reviews about the quality of JL were interesting...makes me want to start reading it again.

    Gail

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  9. beckie,

    I like all the names we grew up with and urge people to still call them whatever they want to call them! It's like common names and flowers, it's nice to know them both. I won't remember AA's name and she will be Black and Yellow garden Spider when I mention her!

    As soon as it is cool enough to dig and mail I'll let you know!

    Gail

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  10. Frances,

    I am highly complicated that you would think I know all this stuff! But I must disabuse you of that notion;-) I am the James Michener of the blog world and have assembled a crack team of researchers! But seriously, I know a little and do try to augment it with facts I dig up! Glad you liked the link.

    Gail

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  11. les,

    I like that name myself, writing spider and beckie's grandmother (above) called it the educated spider! Such fun names. It's that time of year when the spiders are busy in the garden...lots more webs. My spider has gotten big and fat...I water that area and it must be buggie!

    Gail

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  12. Tina,

    I love it too. They are big and scary looking to anyone who doesn't like spiders! Have you noticed how busy they are all getting around your house...lots of them here! Thanks for letting me know the video worked! What a fun toy! Is your son still afraid of the spider?

    gail

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  13. I had never seen these big beautiful black and yellow spiders until we moved to GA! Now I see them in every garden I visit. Glad to know they are harmless.

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  14. Well, she can catch a few horseflies for me. I'd rather get a mosquito bite than a horse fly bite. Eek! Very interesting information, thanks for sharing.

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  15. Yup, still a big baby when it comes to spiders, I bet he would still call mom to take care of the big bad spider should he see one somewhere. Wonder what he'll do when his son yells, "Dad, come get the spider!"

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  16. Beautiful spider. I think they are engineers of the highest order. I like them in my garden too (anything that eats mosquitoes is a friend of mine) but I prefer they stay there and not come indoors! Once again, you provided us with a lot of great information.

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  17. Gail that is a great post on this spider ! .. I love how you do a little video too .. I have to look into that some time ?
    I have loads of spiders in my garden but I haven't been up close enough to get a picture .. I try not to wreck their work when I water .. I know they are so beneficial in catching the bad bugs.
    I don't get over here often enough .. hope things slow down a little soon ..
    Wonderful post : ) well done !
    Joy

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  18. skeeter,
    You don't have to worry, even if this spider were to bite, it would only cause a bit of swelling and itching! It's spider but not like the recluse or widow! They eat bad bugs and some okay ones but a lot of bad ones!
    Gail

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  19. cinj,

    Do you have horseflies? I don't think we get them near us! But I have seen them and they are nasty flies! I still vote for mosquito eating spiders!

    Gail

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  20. kathleen,

    They are incredible engineers. Do you listen to NPR...there was a good story on EB White and how he studied spiders for a year before he completed Charlotte's Web. He was totally amazed by them.

    This spider wouldn't even try to get inside...there are some that do...but they are house spiders. This one is perfectly happy to live and die in the garden! I did read that tin captivity and without a killing frost they can live longer! In case anyone wants a pet!

    Gail

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  21. Ah, yes, the "Amy Winehouse" spider - it's my favorite. One of the Plurkers named it that & I have to agree, the outline with the Beehive hairdo looks like her.

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  22. joy,

    Hello, glad you are out and about! This spider is cool. I stay away from her web, too; out of respect for her territory and how hard she works. I haven't seen an egg sack but I will keep checking!

    The video is so easy. I can make videos with the digital camera and then I upload it to my computer and then to my desktop. Blogger lets me upload from the desktop...I don't use picasa. I don't want another application crowding my mac! Others might have more thoughts on that, see you;-) and thank you!

    Gail

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  23. IVG,

    NPR had a great report on favorite characters and the reporter chose Charlotte. Very nice story with interviews with EB White's family and an interview from the 90's with EB himself. He also was reading from Charlotte's Web! He said they had to do 17 takes because he was crying as he read about Charlotte's death! Hope you get to listen.

    Gail

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  24. MMD,

    I am now calling her that it is too good a name to pass on! Gail

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  25. Gail ~ That is so interesting. We always relocate the spiders that locate themselves inside. I really like that haiku by Issa, it's great.
    ~Cindy

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  26. I haven't seen one of these in my garden yet this summer. I always like to see them. I have never noticed the shaking of the web. I will watch for that the next time I see one.

    I love that haiku. I should post that in my house for the little white spiders that winter inside.

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  27. cindy,

    I've noticed more spiders in the house...It's time to vacuum and pay attention to the inside of the house, too! I like haiku and Issa's are simply lovely.

    Gail

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  28. Lisa,

    I have a black spider, great something of the original,
    who has lived in one corner above a cabinet since we moved here...I haven't been able to identify it but it's never harmed us! Glad you like the haiku..an interesting form of poetry isn't it!

    gail

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  29. I am getting more interested in spiders and their webs. I just never paid attention to them that much. But lately I have been, thanks to people like you, who give us this intersteing infomation. Thanks.

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  30. I know when I come to this blog that I need to pull up and park under the shade, get out my tea, and sit a spell. Wonderful story and just as enjoyable are the replies.

    When I was a kid, we use to try and see our names in the writing on the web. If we did, then good luck would come to us the rest of the year.

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  31. Gail, How ironic. If I wasn't so tired tonight from gardening all day I would have posted the several spiders I photographed today... maybe tomorrow I can get them up.

    I've noticed this time of year there are SO many spiders/webs. I try to leave them be but they block walkways/pathways sometimes and I run into them. I've always thought the ones with the zig-zag pattern webs and the long legs were called banana spiders. hmmmm... you've taught me even more tonight. Fabulous post... as always.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

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  32. Gail, This really struck home with me. Last year I noticed an orb spider and its web for the first time. I thought it was some rare spider and took pictures of it, and then checked it out on different websites. When I eagerly showed it to my son, he said, "Oh, sure, those are common around here." I thought, "Common? I've never noticed one before."
    To me, it represented my new retirement--taking time to notice all the little things around me that I'd never seen before.

    I watched that spider and checked its web for a week or more!
    Thanks for an enjoyable post:)

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  33. Hi Gail, you've given me a lot of information I didn't know. For example how brief their lives are. Kind of sad, they work hard and only live a very short time.
    Marnie

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  34. Oh my! What a great spider to have in your garden. Eating the mosquitoes that bother you! I'd love her in my garden. Although I think it's funny-or ironic-that she eats her mate.

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  35. Great spider pics! I wish the ones that frequent my garden were so colorful! Thx for stopping by Terra Nova Design. I've juts posted the second installment of Private Gardens of Stockbridge & Lenox. Two more to go!
    Carol
    terranovadesign.blogspot.com

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  36. Eve,

    They are pretty interesting...When ever I learn about a new plant or critter I feel closer to nature and to our planet. Blogging and visiting all of your blogs is wonderful and I learn everyday!

    Gail

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  37. anna,

    I am glad you stopped by and had time for tea and a bit of conversation! So many wonderful commenters and visitors..I feel so fortunate to know you all!

    Whew...I have been out all day at the hospital...a friend's surgery...she is fine, but I am slow in getting back to everyone.

    gail

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  38. meems,

    Thank you! It is such a joy to learn and blogging is a great fun way to learn! I like banana spiders! Did you read MMD's comment? She said someone calls them Amy Winehouse Spiders. I think all her different names are perfect! Isn't blogging fun! We learn, laugh and connect with others! What a gift!

    Gail

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  39. Rose,

    It was new and exciting to you! Just like this one was to me! There it was in our gardens and we wanted to know about it! I am so glad that we can look it up on the internet and find pages of information with dozens of photos! What a wonderful metaphor that is...to take the time and see what is there! I love it!

    I am still looking at her progress to see when or if she has eggs nearby!

    Gail

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  40. Marnie,

    It's rather short and to the point, isn't it! They aren't very high on that food chain....certainly chock full of spider adventures! What is that circle of life song that they sang in a Disney Movie about a Lion cub! My memory is shot today!

    gail

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  41. dp,

    I guess that's why they depict spiders with big fangs and they make such good monsters, she's the kind of creature that eats her mate...like the praying mantis does! She's still out there...it's been weeks, still upside down and waiting; this morning I noticed that she had a few small gnat like flying creatures in her web. A small snack! Sorry to be so macabre!

    gail

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  42. Linda,

    She might be there in your garden..she's in almost every garden in the lower 48 states! She's just hiding from you! Really they are pretty good at being still!
    I'll be by to see the rest of your series!

    gail

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  43. Hi Gail,
    I loved MMD's moniker of the Amy Winehouse spider... I'd have never thought of that, even though I'm a fan of Amy's. I just hope she can get her act together and avoid the spider's short life span, though sometimes I wonder. I've seen way too many great talents snuffed out in my life, and I hope she's not the next one.

    On a more positive note, we have a new intriguing beetle up at my place now, along with the corn! We had unexpected storms again last night, and I hope some residual came your way....

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  44. ivg,

    It is a great moniker! Amy W has a fabulous voice too bad she is not getting it together soon enough!

    I did try to identify your bug this morning but there are way too many to go through...could it be a corner borer of some type?

    Gail

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  45. I love your photos. What a scary looking spider but I felt better when you mentioned they are harmless to humans. I especially think your coneflowers are beautiful and the black butterfly on the right column. Thank you for sharing!

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  46. Leah, First of all welcome to clay and limestone, second, your blogs and your work are fantastic! I loved the postcard series! No ones mentioned it but did you see the spider's shadow in the last photo? That's the one I liked! Again, I am glad you stopped by and I have a cool quilting artist to visit!

    gail

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  47. She's gorgeous Gail! If spiders held beauty contents Amy Winehouse/Educated Spider/Black & Yellow would be a serious contender.

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  48. gardengirl,

    She is and isn't her name fitting! She grows bigger everyday!

    I am just so disappointed that I won't be hanging out with you while in Chicago! I can't think of anything nicer then to spend time with you Chicago/Illinois gardenbloggers talking about life and gardens at a garden or over food!

    gail

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  49. Gail--I love spiders, too--I'm constantly carrying them to safer quarters. These spiders often build their webs in our windows--my son would name them (always boys' names, no matter how hard I tried to convince him that they were female). As always, the pictures and video are wonderful--I love your postings.

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  50. Gail, I hope you're having a wonderful time in Chicago this weekend! I'm sorry too we didn't get to meet. Hopefully another time though. There's always the Chicago Fling coming up in 2009. I hope you'll be able to attend. And if a future visit to see your son provides an opportunity that would be grand too!

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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