Thursday, September 24, 2009

The country spider and the city spider

I first wrote this in September, but never got around to publishing. Tonight seemed like an appropriate time, as you'll see at the end of the post.
September will always be a month when I think about beginnings. To many children, it's new teachers, schedules, and friends. To me, it's the beginning of the year, moreso than January. To another species, it also represents the beginning.

Last weekend, I was down in Bellingham to see how American wildlife spend their Septembers. In four metre section of blackberry bramble were at least 50 orb weavers, busily creating their webs in the shortening shadows of morning light. Many were the common Araneus species, taking up enough web real estate to wrap a full-sized football.

The males of the Zygiella species were more bold, interrupting the females web-building by twitching their lines, hoping to get some attention.

Such a high density of spiders, many webs overlapping each other. To bees and flies, this blackberry bush would've been the bramble of death. Despite the high density of spiders, the aroma of blackberries attracts all kinds of flying food, and they are all fed well.

In the city, we have these same species of spiders, but they mature much more slowly, most probably due to limited food supplies being attracted to urban structures such as lampposts and concrete. At this same time of year, the females are still one or two molts behind their mature adult molt. Most years, the first frosts will hit the city before the females are visited by males.

--fast forward to today, the first week of November--
In the city, the spiders have matured and are finally getting the action that their country brethren enjoyed a few months back.

An araneus sp. has been diligently building a web outside our apartment, which each evening I find barren of any flying insects that would normally make up her meals. The cold temperatures are enough to ground any flying insects at this time of year.

Tonight, a visitor paid her a visit. As usual, these encounters last hours, or even days, so long as the smaller male doesn't twitch with the panic-stricken movements of a prospective meal. They were still at it, this game of cat and mouse, when I stepped outside five hours later with my camera.

getting close

So very close

If he's survived this long, he must be doing something right.