Thursday, August 01, 2013

Spiders in Paradise

I've been seeing a lot of spiders in the last few weeks and many of them are new to me.  Spiders are wonderful predators in the garden, especially of insects, so I'm always happy to see them.  Of course, spiders also become prey for other animals, such as certain wasp species, as I talked about in a recent blog post.  The balance of a healthy garden community is a wonderful web of interrelationships!

For the most part, I have no idea how to identify spiders beyond the basics:  jumping spider, orb weaver, crab spider, and so forth.  So I'll share what I know - or think I know - about each spider and see if anyone can add any information for me!

Before I start, though, does anyone have a reference on spiders that they would recommend?  Bugguide.net has some information on spiders, as does Insects in Kansas, but I'm looking for a reference that would really concentrate on telling the different spider families apart, plus maybe identify some of the more common and widespread species.  I'd also like it to be primarily North American based, so that I don't get led astray with species that I wouldn't find around here.

Anyway, here are some of my "catches", in no particular order.

I think this Argiope spider (identified by the thicker zig-zag pattern in the web, known as a stabilimentum) is perhaps a young black and yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia), those huge spiders often seen in late summer and autumn in vegetable and flower gardens, while it's still too young to have developed its adult coloring.  According to the Bugguide.net site, this more centralized stabilimentum pattern is typical of the juveniles of this species.  (The little white packet hanging below the spider is an insect, wrapped up for eating.)

Later the stabilimentum is woven in a linear pattern in this species, as shown in this web made by a slightly larger and more mature black and gold garden spider.

While the more mature black and gold garden spider was found in the vegetable garden, the juvenile black and yellow garden spider was on giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) in the draw, as was this next spider, a mother with her eggs and new spiderlings.

I have no idea what group to put this spider and her babies into.  Truthfully, I didn't really realize what I was looking at until I got back inside and downloaded the photos.  I just saw some lumps of spider silk attached to the upper surface of a leaf, with a small spider by them, and took a couple photos.  I was actually surprised to see that the little yellow lumps were spiderlings, presumably freshly hatched.

When I went back 4 days later and took another photo, Mom and the babies were gone, but at least one of the egg sacs was open that hadn't been open in the earlier photos, so I'm thinking even more spiderlings hatched after my first photos.  I'm also thinking that the cream colored, thicker strands to the left of the egg sacs may be some sort of fungus, but it's just a guess.

One group of spiders that I've had great fun seeing in the draw, among the giant ragweed plants, have been the jumping spiders.  These guys are incredibly alert and seemingly curious - they will turn to look at me for a bit until I stay too long or get too close, then they almost magically disappear over the edge of a leaf or down the stem.  This tan guy was just minding his own business when I took my first photo...

but he almost immediately realized I was looking at him and turned his head up to look at me.  I managed to get 3 more photos before he got nervous and disappeared.

This darker brown cutie was content to stare back at me until I started moving in a bit closer.  Then he, too, was gone in a flash.

I've seen several primarily black jumping spiders in the ragweed, with red or orange coloring on their abdomens.  I don't know if these are all different species, or different sexes and/or ages of the same species.  Here is the individual with the least amount of red/orange on the abdomen...

...and a bit of metallic blue-green on its mandibles, briefly visible in this side shot I was able to capture.

There were several other black jumping spiders with red on their abdomen, scurrying away from me so that I never could get a good shot of their face, but I think they were all the same species as this magnificent individual....

...who looked like he/she wanted to challenge me to a fight!  Notice how enlarged those extended front legs are.  Surely that will help me identify this spider down to the species level....

One last jumping that I've seen recently was this little guy hanging out on my Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus ).  Here he/she is, peering at me to see if I was dangerous or not!

Of course there have been crab spiders in the flowers, too, like this one, hiding in a sunflower, with brown markings on its abdomen...

...and this white one that was on a purple coneflower...

...and this yellow one, without brown abdominal markings, on a Gaillardia bloom.

I have no idea if these are all the same species, or different species, and I have no good idea of how I'd go about deciding that.  So, for now, I'm (barely) content to just label them all as crab spiders.

I hope you're seeing some spiders in your gardens too.  They are a great sign that your gardens are healthy.  Those spiders will work 24/7 to make sure that your gardens stay that way!
 

11 comments:

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

I don't know how to identify spiders very well either. I'm very good at picking out black widows. Those get no mercy from me. They like our garage just a bit too much.
Love having spiders in the garden as long as I remember to wave a stick in front of me if I go outside after dark. I do not think they want me in their web nor do I want it or the spider on me. Ha!
One summer, we had a large what I call garden spider living on our front porch. After one morning when I'm sure my shriek woke the whole neighborhood, I started using a broom to detach it's web just to leave for work. I saw it catch grasshoppers even.

Carol said...

I have to confess that spiders do tend to creep me out, even though I know they are so important. I can see their beauty too and you have some interesting ones here. Their webs are truly like jewels when dressed in dew.

Jason said...

Wow, you have an impressive array of spiders. I haven't seen anything comparable, but maybe I should take more time to examine plants closely. These days I only do that for Japanese Beetles.

Casa Mariposa said...

I love seeing spiders in the garden and have caught bugs I consider to be pests, such as grasshoppers, and stuck them into big spider webs before. But I classify all spiders in 2 groups: will it kill me, yes or no? Any spider in the house gets squished unless it can make a run to safety outside. My daughter was bit by a wolf spider during a sleepover and became very ill.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Mariposa, Are you sure it was a wolf spider? During a sleepover sounds more like it would have been a brown recluse, which are much more common indoors. (And those are nasty bites that tend to get necrotic.)

Anyway, I can sure understand your concern, after your daughter's reaction! I don't let brown recluse or black widows live, if I can help it. On the other hand, I love having little jumping spiders inside catching flies for me. So I guess I share your classification scheme!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Jason, I would assume that you'd be seeing spiders if you're looking for Japanese beetles on your plants. Then again, it amazes me what I miss when I'm not looking for it! It's not uncommon for me to open a photo file and be absolutely astounded at something near what I was photographing that I hadn't noticed at all.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Carol, I think everyone has at least one type of animal that "creeps them out." Mine is flying, buzzing things, so I get creeped out by wasps and beetles flying, among other things. I've trained myself to stop and learn, so I'm doing much better, but it's often sheer willpower until I see the insect doing something interesting!

Gaia Gardener: said...

GoSS, I had never seen a black widow in person until we moved here. Just this year, we've found 2, one of which was in our garage - so I'm sure there are more lurking there. Ugh. They give me the willies. They get no mercy from me, either.

I'm also not very keen on getting a face full of spider web, and, during late summer and early fall, will often walk with my arm in front of me, elbow bent 90 degrees, to block the spider webs and break them before my face does! (If I was better at planning ahead, I'd walk with a stick to do that, but preplanning such things is not my forte.)

Incidentally, I love the big garden spiders. The first or second summer after we moved here, a big black and yellow garden spider built her web across our sliding glass door in the kitchen. I let her stay there for a couple weeks and was rewarded by being able to photograph her from inside, about 6" away, as she remade her web and caught and wrapped insects.

Kalyan Panja said...

simply beautifully captured shots...lovely!

Kalantikan said...

Even if you are not fully contented with your plants, they still look fabulous for me. And i am sure it is a healthy environment as there's a lot of inhabitants. Ours is like yours, we have lots of spiders, insects and butterflies!

Janet QueenofSeaford said...

What a great collection of spiders! If you haven't found another source for spider info, ask at your local extension office.
We had a black widow on my compost bin....not happy about that one, she was hiding under the hand hold area.