Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ode to a Spider

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.

32 comments:

sweetmango said...

I LOVE that story, you gave her so much dignity in the telling of her life. Thank you...from her and me!:)

Jude said...

Wow, I was mesmirised, how wondeful. The photos of her were gorgeous. Isn't life great, and you are truly wonderful for your concern for all creatures, great and small.

tumbleweed said...

aah, spider stories...we had one (a St Andrews Cross spider, I believe) who seemed to live on for years between a rose-bush and an apple tree in the garden. lovely creatures...

Sydney said...

I'm sure she would be very very glad to know that another woman is looking after her babies for the winter and will be there when they hatch.

I'm telling you, you have a way with stories and pictures, whether it's about clothespins or gourds or this spider. Ever think about doing boooks?

pRiyA said...

that was such a beautiful story bindu. i love spiders and i was thrilled to bits when last week i found my first perfect spider web in the garden. the spider is tiny and round (different species from yours), and like your spider, her presence is a joy to behold. my only problem is photographing the web properly so that i can blog it. i am sure the sunlight will strike at the right angle on a lucky day.
thanks for this wonderful post.
:-)

meb said...

Great story bindu. Love the fact that you took the time to photograph her life and to tell us the story.

~vagabond~ said...

She's a real beauty. Oh, and totally my kind of girl. Who needs a guy to help take care of the babies anyway, when you can chomp off his head and use it for extra energy? lol.

Your posts are quite interesting, so I hope you wont mind me blogrolling you.

~ ॐ ~ said...

Boy o Boy!!! I find spiders scary, but here is a story, which is so nicely written that the next time I see a spider I am going to think about this story !!!

very very nice dedicated work Bindu ! Glad I read it !

Hope you have some company next summer too !

Karine said...

Tremendous post, Bindu! You told the spider's story in such a compassionate way. Thank you for sharing with us.

Raghav said...

Nicely done!

bindu said...

Sweetmango, Jude - thanks. It's amazing how some little creatures unexpectedly crawl into our lives. Didn't think I would get attached to a spider before!

Tumbleweed - I'm sure you must have a treasure of creatures where you live! :)

Sydney - I will watch over her eggs and will hopefully be able to witness her babies emerging in the Spring ... glad you like my stories; now wouldn't it be nice if you were a publisher! ;)

pRiyA - I hope the light works with you soon - looking forward to seeing your spider.

Meb, Karine - thanks. :)

Vagabond - :) :) your man better watch out! Am honored to be on your blogroll. Thanks.

Om - I love taking spider pictures, and I'm sure you can work your camera magic with them too. :)

3rdEyeMuse said...

What a lovely, lovely tribute to your neighbor & the photo's amazing. thanks for sharing her story - it was well worth the read. :)

... I, too, hope one of her baby girls chooses you as a neighbor.

pink dogwood said...

This is just amazing - I loved how you put it together. I only like spiders from a distance. I have never seen one with a zig - zag down the middle. Great post :)

Chris' Shady Grove said...

I love garden spiders. It has been a while since I've seen one. Her web look much like the webs of those in the northern climate. Our garden spider has a yellow lightening bolt on her abdomen.

bindu said...

3rdEyeMuse, Bhavana - thanks. :)

Chris - I've started noticing spiders more here in Texas. There are many of them and they are all over during the long, hot months. So many varieties!

Blu said...

Oh what a lovely thread! The last picture is incredible what a mervelous reflection.

Shayla said...

That was fascinating and also beautifully told. I've never seen a web with that zigzag pattern.

painter girl said...

Wonderful post about this lovely spider and her future babes.
Writing spiders are so amazing and you gave them life in this post. thank you!

machinarex said...

In the midst of some online putzing, I stumbled across your blog (maybe via Robyn's?) and was pleased to see this post. When I lived in Boerne (just outside San Antonio) we had a garden spider that lived in a lantana bush outside our porch who we took to feeding...on any given afternoon, there were several adults out in the yard catching grasshoppers and crickets for her, probably much to our neighbor's amusement.

bindu said...

Blu, Painter Girl - thanks.

Shayla - it seems that they are not exclusively found in Texas, but I hadn't noticed them before either!

Machinarex - thanks for stopping by. I can imagine you guys catching bugs for the spider! Towards the end it didn't look like she was eating anything, and I was wondering if I should catch some bugs for her ... didn't though.

Sekhar said...

That was a nice compilation :)

carlikup said...

I love this post ~ it's wonderful! I have a great love for spiders. In judaism, we are forbiden to kill them ~ it is said that a spider saved king David from Saul's army.

bindu said...

Sekhar - thanks.

Carlikup - I didn't know that about spiders and Judaism. Thanks for the info!

Just call me 'A' said...

wow...if only the spider knew maybe it would still be there. i'm amazed how much can be said of so little. nicely put :)

hi..first time here.
A

Robyn said...

I'm feeling just as sad as I was at the end of Charlottes Web. Lovely story Bindu. If you havn't seen Charlottes Web, do yourself a favour and watch the DVD.

Anil P said...

I enjoyed your story. A little shelter in the heart.

bindu said...

A - thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you here again.

Robyn - I've seen Charlottes Web, and I know what you mean. Thanks to the portrayal of Charlotte, I could sort of imagine what my spider was going through. Movies such as these are awesome for the conservation message.

Anil - thanks!

nikheel said...

very very well documented Bindu!! nice keen observation, hats off!! and well written too...

bb mcclain said...

Good thing my wife didn't come visit you. She freaks around spiders. Good story. Reading it reminded me of a TV show we used to watch as kids. "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

Sepiru Chris said...

Bindu,

That is a well crafted docudrama. I quite liked it. When the Heroine returns, I will show it to her!

I am back to re-read!

Tschuess,
Chris

rocksea said...

Bindu, thanks a lot for posting this link. I "feel" your spider story and could sense, to some extent, how you must have felt watching your spider, and how one day she left your world. It is the first time I am hearing such a long observational and intimate account on a spider. Keep watching!

We have the same spider families :)

thebutterflydiaries said...

Absolutely woderful reading.
Let man stand back and observe with awe,
the things so fine within his maw...