Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Orb Weaver

This morning my sister noticed a tiny little spider, only a few millimeters wide, sitting in its web. It was a type of orb weaver. It had built its web, which was only about the size of my palm, between a couple of bars of a railing. The spider was sitting in the center of the web, waiting for something small to come along and get caught.

One of my friends suggested throwing an ant into the web; he wanted to see the spider at work. We looked around, but couldn't find the slightest trace of an ant. I didn't really care - I had already seen plenty of spiders catch their food  - but my friend was not satisfied. He stuck the tip of his pocket knife gently into the web and jiggled it around. His efforts proved futile; the spider could tell it wasn't an insect and did not budge from his position at the center. My friend succeeded only in messing up the web.

The upper-left corner is where my friend put his pocketknife.
The entire web is only the size of my palm.
Soon my sister found a few ants. We were able to get one into the web, and this time we saw the spider act. It ran over to the ant, and tried to grab it and wrap it in web. The ant was struggling, however, and being as large as the spider, was a difficult prey. The spider kept running forward, backing away, and running forward while the ant kicked and struggled. Finally it managed to bundle up the ant, using sticky threads pulled from the web.

At this point, I was able to take a few photos of the spider. The top photo is a closeup of the spider from behind as it works on bundling the ant more securely. The next photo is of the web itself, with the spider ¼ of the way down; my camera didn't focus very well, so if you view the photo full-size the web looks a little blurry.

After that, another ant somehow got into the web. I don't know which of us put it in, but one of us must have; I don't think it got there itself. The spider bundled up that one, too. After that, it looked like it started eating the ants, but I'm not sure; the spider was rather small and hard to see.

I enjoyed my experience with the spider. I can't say it taught me anything, because I had already closely observed other spiders' - especially orb weavers' - behaviors; however it was very interesting to observe it again. I'll end with a question inspired by my friend: what if a spider were a vegetarian?