She came into my life early this summer, in June, when she chose to build her home on the front wall of our home. Her meticulously woven, elaborate web was a marvel and she tended to it fastidiously, picking out debris, and mending it even if it had the slightest tear. I let her be, and admired her web each time I stepped out.
She was a Texas Writing Spider or Argiope aurantia, with the most striking orange and black coloration I've ever seen. Wiki says: "The circular part of the female's web may reach two feet in diameter. Webs are built at elevations from two to eight feet off the ground."
Her web was truly grand, and bore the signature of her species, in neat and confident zorro-strokes right down the middle. She was very young then, a slim and slender girl with long legs.
Wiki says: "Yellow garden spiders breed once a year. The males roam in search of a female, building a small web near or actually in the female's web, then court the females by plucking strands on her web. Often, when the male approaches the female, he has a safety drop line ready, in case she attacks him. After mating, the male dies, and is sometimes then eaten by the female."
She took her time finding a mate, and eventually chose a brave young lad who dared to give his life for her attention. This is how I found him one morning, a month later in July.
She was a woman now and eating for two (thousand). She rapidly gained weight and I often saw her eating large insects that she had caught on her pretty web. She extended her web and climbed higher, so that I could photograph her from inside the house, and capture the beauty of her back.
One night in August exactly a month later, after we had turned off all the lights and gone to bed, she spun a small, secure little net under the moonlight and deposited in it her tightly sealed egg sac which held her babies. She secured it snugly to the wall, and stayed by its side for the next couple of days, protecting it and resting.
Wiki says: "She lays her eggs at night on a sheet of silky material, then covers them with another layer of silk, then a protective brownish silk. She then uses her legs to form the sheet into a ball with an upturned neck. Egg sacs range from 5/8" to 1" in diameter."
Once she was sure that her babies were safe, she returned to her web nearby and remained there for another month. One morning in September I didn't find her at her usual place and got worried. As I searched around, I found her higher up on the same wall, and found another little egg sac by her side. She had secured this one as before, but quite a bit higher, possibly to reduce competition between her babies when they hatched.
Wiki says: "She guards the eggs against predation as long as she is able. However, as the weather cools, she becomes more frail, and dies around the time of the first hard frost."
She came back down last week to her original spot. Now that it's November, nights have become increasingly cold, and we just had a string of very cold nights. I kept a close watch on Argiope.
She had built herself a small, messy web near the wall, close to her first batch of eggs. The small web was torn and had a lot of debris on it. I thought about how fastidiously she used to clean her web in her youth, and knew she was losing her strength.
This week, after a particularly cold and windy Sunday night, I checked on her first thing in the morning, and she was gone. I looked for her, but cannot find her. She spent her entire life on this front wall of our house, so wouldn't have just wandered away.
Her web was in front of the lower right window, and her second egg sac is circled in orange near the top right window.
Over the past 6 months I've grown so used to checking on her as I leave the house, and looking for her as I get back, that it's become a habit. I still do it. Only, her web now hangs torn and messy on the front wall.
Come Spring, her babies will hatch and find their way in life. I hope one of her daughters will again choose our wall to make her home on, and I will have her company all next summer.
P.S. I had posted some of these pictures over the summer, but now that Argiope is gone, I thought it would be good to compile them together and tell her story.