We’re moving from the flowers-of-spring period into the insects-of-summer. Along with the insects come those creatures that prey on them, most notably the spiders and related creatures. Of course, birds, bats, and even other insects prey on insects, but I have a special fascination with spiders. They are not, I am led to believe, universally admired. I suppose I understand that. Nevertheless, I think they are quite beautiful, at least some of them are. This is Leucauge venusta, the orchard orbweaver, and a common resident in our area. It’s so delicate and looks like it could be made of glass. It’s been said that you are never more then six feet from a spider. Even if that’s not literally true, it’s probably mostly true. Sleep well.
Tagged With: Spider
I met Cathy outside my building briefly today because we had come together and she needed to go out briefly so needed the keys to the car. I brought my camera with me and took a few pictures while I was out. There are porcelain berries (Ampelopis brevipedunculata) out and I took a few pictures of those. Then I noticed a really spectacular web glinting in the sun. This spider was sitting near the middle of that web and I was able to get quite close for some pretty nice pictures. I didn’t have my tripod with me but it was pretty bright out. I’ve asked for some help in identifying it and if I hear about that I’ll post its name here.
Update: I have confirmed that this is a lattice orbweaver (Araneus thaddeus).
The funnel weaver spiders are out in huge numbers at this point of the summer. Especially on damp mornings, when the dew is heavy on the ground, their webs are obvious (but they can be seen pretty well at all times). Outside our front door is a concrete bench (that we call The Stone Table) on which Cathy has various and sundry potted plants and various ornaments. This spider has built a fairly elaborate web along the side of a blue pot. I’ve had a hard time getting a good photo that shows the funnel in their web but I think this one does it pretty well.
Beside the hose faucet on the front of our house is a largish spider web. It’s been there for quite some time and I took a picture of this lady a few weeks ago. She was much smaller then and I might have thought it was a different spider, except Cathy’s been watching her, every time she uses the hose. Needless to say, she comes in from the other side and does her best to keep her distance. The spider, a black-and-yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia), is a good inch or more in length, not counting her legs. She’s a beauty, don’t you think?
It’s funnel weaver time in the yard. They build webs in the grass and in the garden where the plants aren’t too tall. When it’s humid and the dew settles on the grass, they are particularly easy to find because of the beads of water on the webs. I believe that this is a grass spider (genus Agelenopsis). They generally disappear into the funnel at the side of there web when I get too close but with a bit of patience they can be seen. While I’m not a fan of having spiders crawling on me or having spider webs in my face, I like them for what they eat, so I left them be, for the most part.
The afternoon sun was lighting up three or four prominent spider webs today. Spider webs can be tricky to photograph. In particular, you can pretty much forget about auto-focus, unless there is something substantial caught in the web (or if the spider is there, which is sometimes enough). Another thing is that you want them to show up against whatever background is available. If the web is lit by the sun, as this one is, then you want a relatively dark background. This is an old web, not obviously inhabited any more. One of the others I photographed had a spider on it, although she scurried for cover when I got close. I did get one picture of an orchard spider (Leucauge venusta) on her web, though.
It’s spider time in Maryland. There are spiders around all year long, of course. It’s said that you are never more than six feet from a spider*. Nevertheless, they are much more noticeable in the heat of late summer. We have quite a few living in the garden and yard and I have no problem with that. They eat things I like less than spiders. This one is just outside our living room window on a fairly impressive web. Getting into a good position to photograph it was a bit tricky, as I didn’t want to disturb it or ruin its web. I know I have a few followers who aren’t crazy about my spider photos (or other creepy-crawly things) but I think they are beautiful, in their own way. This is, I believe, a cobweb spider in the genus Parasteatoda.
* There are probably exceptions to this, for instance if you are floating in the ocean (without a boat), you may be more than six feet from a spider.
I know that for many people, the phrase, “one of my favorite spiders” is not even a thing. Nevertheless, this is one of my favorite spiders. The Golden Silk Orbweaver (Nephila clavipes) is quite large. Nothing like a tarantula and only hairy at the leg joints, but still pretty good sized. The body of females grow up to almost 2 inches. This on is about an inch and a half. The male, seen at the top of the picture, is considerably smaller. North Carolina is about as far north as this spider is found but it is fairly common in the marshy woods here. Because of their size, they are fairly easy to spot. That’s just as well because you probably won’t be happy when you walk into the web as you go through the woods.
The silk from this spider is a golden color. Scientists have analyzed the dragline silk of this spider’s web and attempted to reproduce its proteins artificially for use in high-strength fabrics.
I had a meeting in one of the other buildings on campus this afternoon. I took my camera with me, as I often do, and went into the woods between the buildings on my way back. Below the pond there is a stream and to the side of that, an old settling pond that’s almost completely silted up. The water isn’t more than six inches deep although I wouldn’t be surprised if the soft mud is another foot deep below that. I walked along the side of that and took a few pictures of a red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis ) before spotting this little spider, and orchard orbweaver (Leucauge venusta). I managed to get down onto the ground without getting too wet and got a few pictures, although a tripod would have been a big help. These are pretty little things and of course they eat things that I don’t particularly like. So they’re my friends.
The funnel weavers are out in force again. They appear about this time each year. Actually, they are a little earlier than usual this year, probably because of the uncommonly mild weather and the relatively large amount of rain we’ve had. They are really cool spiders, building horizontal, non-sticky webs. When an insect lands on the web, the spider rushes out and bites it and the takes it back into her funnel, an tube-like web structure. This is, I believe, a grass spider (Agelenopsis species), one of the funnel weavers in the family Agelenidae. These spiders are really shy and not at all aggressive. And they eat insects. What’s not to like?
In the Green Swamp, green lynx spiders (Peucetia viridans) live on pitcher plants, enjoying the insects that don’t quite make it into the death trap. Bwah-ha-ha!
This is one wicked looking spider. It is a Spined Micrathena (Micrathena gracilis) and I came across her in the woods next to my office. Her web is about eight inches across and about three feet off the ground. With the number of bugs flying around, I suspect she eats well.
The wind was whipping this little fellow around and I could only get at him from behind, so this isn’t as good as I’d like but still, it’s reasonably sharp and kind of cool. If you like that sort of thing — I understand not everyone is crazy about spiders.
After the heavy rain this morning I wasn’t sure I’d get out but it was a beautiful afternoon. I took more butterfly pictures but my favorite of the day is this spider I found. I think it may be a tan jumping spider, Platycryptus undatus.