September 30, 2009
September 28, 2009
I began this post near the start of spider-season, then WordPress got arachnophobic and deleted it all. But two weeks later our eight-legged friends are still out in force – and are starting new families too.
The garden spider’s one of the most visible bugs in British gardens at this time of year – certainly every harvest in my garden involves the inadvertant collection of a fine head-dress of webs.
But while they’re common – and it’s apparently a bumper year – they’re definitely worth a look.
Arinaeus diadematus create the standard fairytale webs – the same that collect drops of dew early in the morning and make hedgerows look like the window displays in Hatton Garden.
Their bodies range from muted greys to glowing ambers, but all have a line of white spots stamped down the middle.
Two weeks ago I watched them sit motionless in the centre of their traps – until something caught and writhed – then they’d dart into action.
The spider on the right hoisted its little package up on a thread and turned it round and round until totally wrapped in silver.
Prey is anything up to the size of bees and butterflies. Once wrapped they’re injected with digestive enzymes and sucked dry until only husks remain.
The smaller males lurk at the edge of the dance-floor, then literally risk life and limb to try their luck – strumming the web as they advance towards the centre and shouting “Seriously, would I make all this noise if I were food?”
All the swollen mothers now sat astride their traps are evidence that some made it.
The females are now starting to build eggs sacs which they’ll guard, unfed, until their deaths. All will be quiet until next spring when the miniature spiderlings (and I rejoice so much that this is the actual word) will emerge and build themselves tiny silken parachutes that will carry them far and wide.