Saturday, July 19, 2014

Spiders Galore

Usually I think of late summer and early fall as "The Spider Time of Year", but I'm seeing quite a few spiders around the yard right now, in what I would consider mid summer.  What's even more interesting is that most of these are a little different from the spiders I tend to see later in the season.

For starters, I'm seeing a lot of the black and yellow garden spiders (Argiope aurantia) already, but they are comparatively tiny.  Mind you, I've always known that black and yellow garden spiders were out there all summer long, growing from tiny spiderlings to adult size, but I don't normally notice them until they get huge and hang their webs outside the kitchen door, around the compost pile, or between the beds in our vegetable garden.  I'd say the average one I'm seeing right now has a slender body whose length is right around 1/2", which is a far cry from the inch long (and almost as wide) female "monsters" more common in September.

On July 6th, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this large spider (I'm guessing a wolf spider) molting in the tall grass.  Because I always worry that I'll disrupt an animal in a detrimental way if I hang around too long during a vulnerable period in their life span, I didn't stay around to watch the molting process, but I did grab a couple of quick photos.  Molting is amazing, when you stop to think about it.  You can see every minute external structure of the animal in its shed exoskeleton.

The last few days have been especially rich in spider sightings.  For example, despite glaringly obvious webs, I've only been able to capture glimpses of funnel spiders before.  Yesterday, however, I was able to get a pretty good look at this Grass Spider (Agelenopsis pennsylvanica) on its rain spotted funnel web, located in a clump of Husker Red penstemon in the back courtyard.

Four days ago, this cute little guy was hiding in the leaves of one of our bur oaks (Quercus macrocarpa) out behind the back courtyard.  I've never seen a spider marked in quite this way, but my spider book tells me its a male jumping spider (Hentzia palmarum), the Common Hentz Jumper.  The female looks quite different, basically a drab brown with spots.  I could very easily have seen her and not remembered it.

In the flower gardens, I'm frequently seeing little crab spiders on Echinacea blooms...which obviously tax their camouflage abilities beyond capacity.  The yellow or white coloration that works so well for them on goldenrod, sunflowers and other blooms doesn't hack it on Echinaceas, but evidently the little crab spiders are still able to catch what they need.

Last, but most certainly not least, I've been seeing quite a few wolf spiders.  Big wolf spiders with really pretty, textural patterns on their abdomens.  Again utilizing my spider book, I've figured out that they are Rabid Wolf Spiders, Rabidosa rabida.   How's that for a name?  (As if large spiders didn't have enough of a P.R. problem?!)  Were they given their name because their large size made people act mad (rabid) with fear?  Or did their quick movements made them seem rabid?  One site listed the latter hypothesis, but I suspect it's the former.

If you're the sort to worry about such things, you'll be happy to know that, despite their size and although their bite IS painful, rabid wolf spiders are not poisonous to humans and the pain from the bite will rapidly subside.  Personally, I just wouldn't pick one up!  That moves the chance of getting bitten to just about zero.

I love seeing spiders around the yard.  They help maintain ecological balance by capturing and eating a wide variety of insects and, occasionally, other spiders. While I'm not overly excited about accidentally running into spider webs, especially face first, most of the spiders I'm seeing right now either don't make webs or they don't make webs that I'm likely to run into.  Even the black and yellow garden spiders are spinning their webs deep down in the middle of perennials right now, rather than high up across pathways.  Have you seen any interesting spiders in your garden lately?


Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

We are noticing a lot of spiders too. We love the garden spiders that get huge just not on our front porch. I know of one time when I shared a loud shriek at 5:30 am walking into a web across our front porch. :-) We relocate them when they do that now. Wolf spiders are so fast. I had one in the garage last year that dropped tons of babies when I scared it. I do not like them in the house however. That is a dangerous place for them to be. Outside, I love to find their nests.

Gaia Gardener: said...

GonSS, I've seen wolf spider females just covered with babies -I can't imagine all those little things scattered all over the garage! Yikes! One year we had a black and yellow garden spider build a web across our sliding glass doors. I just let it be for several weeks and was rewarded by seeing it rebuild its web, as well as catch quite a few different insects. Got great photos from about 6" away (through the glass)!

Jason said...

I enjoyed the tour of spiders. I have seen very few in our garden, but maybe I am just not looking closely enough.

Paula @ Blooms 'n' Spades said...

You've taken some great shots of the spiders! I've had the crab spiders in my garden, although it's been hiding out on the Verbena.

Indie said...

I had no idea that spiders molted! Very interesting! We have a good amount of spiders around, which I love, especially as there aren't too many poisonous ones around where I live now. We found a huge spider in our garage a few weeks ago, and my husband shoed it out with a broom. I wish I would have taken some pictures first just so I could find out what type it was!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Indie, I'm guessing your big spider was a wolf spider, as they are generally the largest ones around, aside from tarantulas.

Wolf spiders are wonderful! Pretty soon now the females will be laying their egg sacs, which they carry with them until the spiderlings hatch. Then the baby spiders stay on Mom's back for a week or more, developing further, until they are big enough to spin a little silk and balloon away to find their own place in the world. It's a real hoot to see a Mama Spider with her back covered by babies!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Jason, I've been seeing more spiders this year than usual, for mid summer at least. I'll be you'll start seeing the normal fall characters showing up soon!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Paula, thank you!

I love the crab spiders. For some reason they always make me smile a little....