My spider-friend is gone, her web in tatters.
This time, Lulu isn’t to blame. Last weekend, Lulu decided to walk between the chair and the wall of the house, for some reason only she knows, and in doing so, she walked off with a good portion of the spider’s web on her back.
However, at the first hint of tension, the spider zoomed up to the top of her web. Within minutes, she was busy at work spinning a new web. It was fascinating to watch her use all eight legs as she knit her web back together again, releasing silk from her lower abdomen. Her technique reminded me of an unspooling ball of yarn and the result reminded me of the doilies my Grandma Steutermann would crochet.
My spider-friend survived Lulu’s attack last week, but she wasn’t so lucky last night.
During the COVID-19 weeks I’ve spent observing my spider-friend, I’ve watched her perch upside in the center of her web. Mostly, she just hangs there in that inverted position. Several times, I’ve witnessed her dart—she can move fast when she needs—to grab an insect that got snagged in her web. Most trapped food she ate quickly. Once, I watched as she dashed off, grabbed an insect, rolling it in a stream of silk that emitted from her belly. Then, she left the entombed morsel in a corner of her web and went back to her home base in the center. Another time, I watched as she decided to eat a bug that she’d earlier woven in a silk sac. First, she used her mouth parts to turn it over and over and over. It looked like she was emitting saliva or liquid to unwrap the bug. Then, she ate it.
It was all fascinating. Each morning, when I opened the drapes and greeted Kalalea, I’d taken to checking on my spider-friend. This morning, she wasn’t there.
Curious as to what the predator of the black and yellow garden spider might be, I started searching online.
Before I found my answer, I learned a few other things, including the scientific name of my spider, Argiope aurantia. She is known as an orb spider, because she spins her web in a circular pattern—like a doily. She’s also known as a banana spider, corn spider, and—get this—a writing spider.
The nickname “writing spider” comes from a special zigzagged stitch they sometimes make in their webs, scientifically known as stabilimenta, that, I suppose, looks like writing.
I also learned the male garden spider is smaller and constructs a smaller web but usually near the female’s. Females typically stay in a specific area and often use the same web for an entire summer. Males, however, may roam. (Try not to anthropomorphize there!)
Garden spiders only breed once a year. Females produce 1000 to 4000 eggs in multiple sacs. They attach the sacs toward the center of the web. She guards her eggs until she dies. Males die after breeding and are sometimes eaten by the female spider.
And, then, at the bottom of the article, I found what I wanted to know: their predators are many, including birds, lizards, a few species of wasps, and shrews. A shrew is a small mole-like mammal. We don’t have shrews in Hawaii. But we do have rats. They’d probably eat a spider.
Learning about the species that make their homes in our backyards—or sitting beside you on the lanai, as in the case of the garden spider, is interesting to me. However, I wish there were more native species of fauna in our yards. Like so many other flora and fauna, the garden spider was introduced to Hawaii. However, they do possess a characteristic common in Hawaii–they are familial. Often multi-generational individuals live within close quarters, using the same anchor lines for separate webs.
Oh, and they’re, generally, quite harmless. Unless, of course, you’re a bug.
We added one COVID-19 case in Hawaii today, bringing our total to 640.