Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The life of the Argiope aurantia (part 2 of 3)

Any doubters need to admit that cyberspace is pretty amazing. When I can post a photo of a colorful (scary) spider, only to have it identified within the following 5 minutes - it's a cool thing. Michael seems to find the Argiope aurantia in his garden every year - her name is always Charlotte (as in the book and movie Charlotte's Web), although as he puts it, a new actress plays the leading role each year. Though I'm not going to steal his (and E.B. White's) name, I do really get the concept. In case you're not familiar, or it's been a while, see this YouTube video of the trailer to the original movie. Do you know every word to every song like I do? Chin up if you don't.


The Argiope aurantia is also known as the writing spider because of the stabilimenta. Though I have yet to see "some pig" or "terrific", I do see the "writing" in the web. Just like in Charlotte's Web, the Argiope aurantia takes down the "writing" each night. Here's a photo I just took (about 9pm)...

Tomorrow, the humans will be wowed with the spider's new message like you see below. The photo below is from Wikipedia, but my spider makes the same zig zag every day.

(photo above courtesy of Wikipedia)

As you may recall from Charlotte's Web, Wilbur was quite horrified to find that his gentle friend Charlotte injects venom into insects that become stuck in her web (below)...

...and then (below) spins a cocoon around it to keep it safe and fresh for later eating (about 1-4 hours later).

In the photo above, Michael noticed the spider's swollen abdomen, indicating that it would be laying eggs soon. Guess what I saw the very next day? Notice how much flatter the abdomen is? Fascinating. The spider lays her eggs on a sheet of silk, covers it with another sheet of silk, then a protective brown layer. Finally, she bundles it up into a sac. Hello Charlotte's Web fans, sound familiar?

There are over a thousand eggs in this sac. It hangs about a foot from the center of the spider's web. She'll protect it as long as she can, but she's probably slowing down now. Around the time of the first hard frost, she'll die. In the spring, most of her babies will balloon away on a strand of silk. A few though, will remain (remember the ending?). And so ends the story of Charlotte's Web...I..I..mean...the blog post about the Argiope aurantia.


I hope you enjoyed this tale, and also caught the first post in the series - The Fall of the Hornworm. Stay tuned for the final part in the series - The Rise of the Butterfly.


  1. Even though I really hate spiders, I can appreciate that you took the time and effort to post these fantastic photos.

    I am probably going to have nightmares.

  2. OMG, that thing is frightening! I've had smaller less creepy-looking spiders in the garden this year. I don't know what I'd do if came across one of these.

  3. The power of the internet is amazing isn't it? You got some great photos of that spider! Really cool!

  4. Very good documentation of this critter's activities befitting publication in National Geographic. A good insight of how perpetuating the species is such a strong instinct.

  5. Yes - let the nightmares begin. :) That zigzag web is pretty cool!

  6. So cool that you have a Charlotte-spider!

  7. Those are great photos! We have been watching a garden spider spin his web every night by our patio light. My son leaves the light on so he can catch some bugs. I enjoyed your previous post, too ...great photos of that horn worm.

  8. Good stuff, Wendy, with awesome photos. You are a dear to share and blend photos/story.

  9. Wendy - WOW to the photos! Bugs make difficult subjects. I probably have over two hundred blurry shots of bugs on my hard drive, so kudos to you!
    I'm saving this post for Chloe to read in the morning, she will absolutely love it.You did a great job with this post.
    Me? I'll just be thankful the worst thing I've seen yet this season are wolf spiders... dozens of them, but at least they're smaller than that monster you've got there! She'd terrify the heck outta me.

  10. I'm so not a fan of any spiders but these photos you posted are so intriguing. I didn't think spiders look that fascinating up close. I also learn about spiders from you. Blogging is educational too! :)

  11. Oh Wendy i learned some things today, thanks for that post. We have lots of those too but i prefer to take photos of the bigger ones, which i dont post yet. BTW, i hope you dont mind, but Scientific names are always spelled with capital letter at the first word (Genus) and small caps on the second word (species); e.g. Argiope aurantia. And usually these are written in bold or italics. This is to add more charm with your very informative post. thank you.

  12. I've had those spiders, and watched them weaving those cool zig zags. I think they're beautiful.

  13. Thanks for the tip Andrea! I have just edited to make this post more charming. :)

  14. This is amazing, but Wendy, you are a brave girl!


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