Entries in spiders (2)


Late Afternoon in the Woodland Garden 

It is mid August, and I like to stroll through my woodland garden in late afternoon as the heat of the day subsides. Already I can feel hints of autumn in a cool breeze. Dusk has not yet begun to steal the light away, and the scene is breathtaking. I did not create my woodland garden with the transforming magic of late afternoon light in mind, but one could think so, if I were that talented a gardener. I am simply blessed.

Golden sun rays radiate through the entry to the woodland garden, illuminating the moss path and gilding the plantings:

I walk through the woodland garden slowly, dreamily admiring the light in the trees:

I gaze at the glittering leaves of 'Waterfall' Japanese maple:

Here is the view across the main planting bed in the woodland garden:

Near the Japanese maple is 'Lady in Red' hydrangea, named for its striking red stems:

There are not many flowers in the woodland garden in August. An exception is this hosta 'Royal Standard' bloom:

A few more lovely woodland plants catch my attention:Clockwise from top left: Abelia blooms; Variegated Japanese Pittosporum with Wood Aster in background; Japanese Painted Fern; Hepatica nobilis.I see a spider web, and I am reminded it will soon be "spider season", when female spiders build webs in a frenzy, preparing to catch food to sustain themselves while they mate and lay eggs. (The male spiders are so focused on the female spiders that they don't feed and die soon after their own role in reproduction is done.)

The late afternoon light glows through the fronds of a Birds Nest Fern. This is a tropical fern in a pot that I bring in for winter, but it flourishes outside through the summer in the woodland garden:

I find a small downy hawk feather caught in a branch.Then nearby I see a larger hawk feather on the ground. What story does this tell? Normal shedding, or something tragic?A nice breeze blows through the wind chimes.I close my eyes and listen to the music. 

The magic light that turns the woodland garden into a dreamland does not last long, and dusk creeps in. The mosquitos are biting. Time to go inside! 


My Little Orb Weaver

I was outside and walked into a spider web the other day. I turned around and managed to get the web wrapped across my mouth and draped through my hair. I spit and frantically batted at it, imagining the spider heading right into some facial orifice. Somehow I was able to extricate myself, and I fortunately never saw the spider. Poor spider. She was probably more distressed than I was.

Have you noticed how many more spider webs there are in the fall? That's because immature spiders usually come out of their egg sacks in the spring, then take most of the summer to grow up. When they mature, they concentrate on reproducing. Females need lots of energy to produce eggs, so they eat a lot. Thus, lots of spider webs to catch their food. While male spiders will spin webs to catch prey when they are young, upon maturity they usually abandon the practice to concentrate on mating.

I was fortunate to see the next spider web before I walked into it. It seemed to be a large web for such a small spider. I think the spider was just getting started:

Here is a close-up of the spider. She is very interesting!

I looked up my spider on line and easily identified it as a spiny-back orb weaver, Gasteracantha cancriformis. These distinctive crab-shaped spiders have spines along their sides. They have color variations of red, white, yellow and black, depending on their region. They are very small. The male is only up to 1/18 inch, while the female is larger at about 3/8 inch. They are short-lived spiders, living from 2 to 5 months. The male dies only 8 days after mating and the female dies soon after laying her eggs.

These orb weavers are garden spiders. They do not invade the house, and they are not dangerous. They are good guys, preying on flies, mosquitos, beetles, and many flying insects that are harmful to crops and ornamental plants in our gardens. They are susceptible to insecticides, so use of artificial pesticides should be minimized.

There are many species of orb weavers across the world. The famous little spider in Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White, was a kind of orb weaver. Next time I see a spider web in my garden, I will think twice about knocking it down!