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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Arachnaphobes might want to skip this one

Arachnaphobes - you know, people who are freaked out by spiders, or pictures of spiders, or descriptions of spiders - might want to skip this post. Don't worry, I've got lots of other posts that might amuse you - why not click on the "Greatest Hits, Volume 1" sidebar link to see some of my older posts and start poking around there? Or go visit Rima's Rimorama, or Anne's Almost Quintessence, or Sammie or Camilla's blogs? I don't think they have any spiders there. Lauren's Please Make Rice. I Love You! has been known to have pictures of thirsty wasps and long-tongued cows and frogs and toads and turkeys, so there's a chance a spider may show up there sometime. Heck, most of the blogs I link to don't have pictures of spiders on them, and neither did mine, until now. So you might want to pass on this entry.

I mean it.

Still here?

You've been warned.

Wednesday, August 24th, was to be the day that my father would die, though I did not know it that morning. That morning it was to be the day that I finally did something about the three-foot-tall weeds that were taking over my gardens.

The days have been growing shorter lately, and by the time I get home there's very little time to do anything in the garden without a flashlight. Besides, with my father in the hospital I wasn't getting home until after 8:00 anyway. So the only time I had to do anything in the garden was in the morning, before I took my shower.

Wednesday I decided I had had enough of the giant weeds that had come to dominate the gardens on the side yard of my house. I went out that morning and began pulling. The weeds' size was their downfall, because it was quite easy to get a grip while standing up. And my soil is in such good condition that the weeds slipped easily out of it.

I made my way methodically through the gardens - first on the north side of the old garden, then on the narrow steppingstone path between the two gardens, clearing the inner south side of the old garden and the inner north side of the new garden, also known as "The Garden Of Giving Up." Finally I had to clear the west side and then the outer south side of the new garden.

I had cleared all of the major weeds - some of them were ragweed, I think, and I was trying to get them before they began to spew their pollen. I then saw one more weed in my tomatoes in the new garden. I went to pull it and noticed that there was a large spiderweb spun between it and one of my tomatoes. In the large spiderweb there was a large spider.

I recognized this spider from an encounter 16 years ago at a friend's place in Scranton (very probably not the same spider, mind you, but the same sort of spider.) I knew it as the Eastern Writing Spider, although the Audubon Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders identifies it as the Black-and-Yellow Argiope. Identifiers include the black-and-yellow color, the lightning-bolt bird collision avoidance thread woven into the middle of the web, the terrifying size (this one had a legspan of about 2.5 to 3 inches) and the silver hairs and beady eyes on its head.

There is one other sure-fire indicator for this spider, the one that I recognized immediately: the marking on its back that I refer to as "Pissed Off Betty Boop with Glowing Yellow Eyes and A Bowl of Fruit On Her Head". Other people may see something else in this marking, but that's what I see.

By the next morning much had changed. My father was dead. I had spotted an Ambush Bug lurking in my roses, and a Differential Grasshopper hanging out in the butterfly bush. I went around to check on the condition of my Black-and-Yellow Argiope, and it was gone. Where could it have gotten to?

Well, I quickly found that out. It had moved its hunting site to the butterfly bush, and had managed to catch two Silver-Spotted Skippers.

A most industrious, clever, and admirable arachnid, it had moved its web to a location that was already attracting its prey. All it had to do was spin a web and wait, and eventually one or more delicious butterflies or butterfly relatives would blunder into it.

I have not seen the spider for a few days now. Her butterfly bush web is decrepit, and the two food packages that had once been Silver-Spotted Skippers are also gone. Perhaps she was snatched up herself by some predator to play a new role in the Circle Of Life. I'll keep an eye out for her - or her children.

1 comment:

Betz said...

Harold, Andy is scared crapless of spiders...maybe I will play a practical joke on him and have him go to your site under pretense and we will GET him.

Of course that will NEVER beat the practical joke that Tressa, you and I played on him now will it......