Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, August 15, 2014

All tangled up

I am absolutely obsessed with the black and yellow garden spider and her cohort that set up shop days ago in the bromeliad patch out back.  After reading Argiope aurantia spiders consume the central stabilizing part of their webs at the end of each day only to reweave a new one the next, I've gone out every morning first thing, rushing to assure the colony is still there and past that to admire each new day's webbed handiwork.

On the third morning I was shocked to find the large female's web unoccupied. I gasped involuntarily and asked aloud "where did you GO?".  I didn't think a bird or other predator could have grabbed her without disturbing the web and as it remained intact, I fervently hoped this lovely lady had only stepped out to grab a few things...
I watched and I waited while taking photos of the other smaller webs in close proximity.  Just as I was about to give up and declare her disappearance a tragic garden mystery, after a few spasmodic lurches, the web was quickly recentered with its queen.  Losing no time, the immature female spider began to re-spin the upper portion of the stabilimentum with movements so quick I wasn't able to capture them well with my camera in the morning light.  
Relieved and honored to have witnessed what might be routine to the spider but seems miraculous to this gardener, I got ready to retreat and return the space to her and her retinue of teeny tiny companions.

As I was turning to leave, I noticed a new installation across the path.  A smaller immature female built her own web in the bromeliads on the right hand side of the walkway to the greenhouse.  Queen Charlotte has a lady in waiting.
This young lady is about half the size of Charlotte.  There I stood, admiring her stabilimentum, wondering why I'd never seen these spiders in our spaces before. It seems suddenly this year, CandyLand is prime real estate. As I watched, the spider began to push on the silks and purposefully vibrate her web.  Before I could even try to get a photo, she dropped to a far reach of her web and began working furiously to wrap a captured insect in silk.  She was moving so quickly all I managed to catch was a blur.  
Once she'd neatly wrapped her package she brought it back up to the center of her web, where she continued with a few finishing touches.  I could see the tiniest bit of motion from within - whatever she'd caught was still struggling.  
Frankly, some days I wander around the garden and don't find a single novelty to capture my interest.  Today has been the precise opposite of that, courtesy of the newly established resident orb weavers.  I'm reminded so much goes on right under our noses without our ever knowing, if we don't know where to look.  Or how to see.

I'm making a case to The Hub to stop watering the bromeliad cups with the hose wand, asking him to use a watering can so as not to disturb these beauties arranged on their silky structures.  He was a little noncommittal.  He's not as entranced with the spiders as I am, nobody here is.    

Regardless, I find these beneficial insects fascinating.  I don't know what is different about this season or the space that has them showing up in numbers this year, but I do hope they'll find good reason to stay. I think they make lovely companions.  


Tina said...

What a lovely post, Deb. It is a true blessing when we are able to witness the normal-for-them goings on of those who inhabit our gardens, isn't it? Thanks for sharing your spider adventures and allowing us a peak into their lives--such a treat!

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Thank you for being so supportive. Many gardeners see every bug as a pest and invader. I know I started out there. I'm so glad to have journeyed far from that misperception and am happy for the company of you and others like you who appreciate both the flora and the fauna in their outdoor spaces.

Debra said...

These are great captures. When I first saw these webs over here I called them zipper spiders. I think they are gorgeous -- at least as lovely as any flower. Movement, colour, drama.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Zipper spiders is a great alternate name and I'm glad you think they're gorgeous,too. I'm always happy for company here in Spider Admiration territory.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing, and I've never spent the time looking at spiders or other insect life, except the more odd ones! Interesting you saw the queen again, after she disappeared. And that is one interesting spider, the cool banding of colors.

Seeing that and Shirley's centipedes, your region might top ours' for the interesting!

Now that I live in town, not much more to see...

TexasDeb said...

David: Thanks for dropping in! We aren't far out of town really. I think it's just a matter of having some plants and not spraying. Time passes and the bugs find their niche and move right in. Which also means lots of imperfect plants but I'm getting more and more OK with that.

Pam/Digging said...

There's a big one living in my curbside bed, spinning between a yucca and a muhly grass. Like yours, one day she was gone, and her web was actually a bit tattered, so I assumed something had gotten her. But the next day she was back. I look for her every day as I'm driving away -- yes, she's big enough that I can see her from inside the car.

TexasDeb said...

Pam: These spiders do have visual impact!

I am saddened to say the biggest spider in Candyland seems to have completely disappeared. There are now two smaller (yet larger than any of the others close by) spiders, apparently females, and though I miss their larger leading lady, I'm happy to have them as companions this year.