Friday, October 26, 2007

freaky spider for Halloween

We got smoked out by the firestorm, and evacuated for a day. But rather than focus on that, here's a bizarre naturalist note:

We have a big spider living in a classic circular web just outside my office window. It only eats bees, sometimes two a day. When it doesn't catch anything, its abdomen shrinks back down to where it looks like a huge tick. After eating a few bees, it balloons up again. Because of the smoke, the bees wouldn't come out, and the spider's web was destroyed by wind. It clung to one of our hanging baskets for a few days to weather out the storm, giving me a chance to finally get a good photo of its top side (which was previously facing the wall):

Oddly, its underside is black with yellow streaks:

After the fire, it had shrunk down to almost nothing and flapped around listlessly for a day or two, and I thought it had starved. But now it seems okay again -- the bees have come out and it caught one already.

Also strange: there were two different types of smaller spiders (both with the same weird habit of holding their legs together in pairs) which tried to mate with it about a month ago, but it hasn't had any eggs that we know of. One photo shows both intruders in the web, plus a closeup of each one. The big female let the tiny spider stay close to her for about two days (obviously a male), but the larger intruder was kept away (and a bit of a mystery).

According to a local spider collector, it's a Mexican orb weaver. Leg spread about 2 inches. Really a spectacular critter. We're glad she survived the fires. Makes me wonder about all the other creatures, great and small, that were wiped out.

Happy Halloween!