I have long advocated that it is impossible to love and respect something that you don’t understand. In fact, misunderstanding often manifests itself in fear, anger, and even violence. Look around you and observe when people (or any creature) act out of fear. But once understanding enters the picture those fears are generally waylaid and fascination, wonder, and intrigue follow.
I have been absorbed in watching a garden spider (Argiope aurantia) that appeared a couple of weeks ago. She is large and has legs that will send shivers up and down your spine. Even though I know that she is harmless, I would still be a bit freaked out if we ever had a too-close encounter. But, boy is she fascinating.
Her webs are a work of art and her hunting, disarming, and capturing of prey is quick and skillful. I call her Shelob after the spider in The Lord of the Rings because of her habit of wrapping her prey in a silk cocoon for later feasting. Many readers have told me that they have named the argiopes in their gardens Charlotte. Mine, I think, is a bit more fierce.
Shelob left her web a few days ago. She’s done this once before and showed up in another spot in the garden, so I had my eye out for her. But instead of a web, I found her working diligently on an egg sac. She was finishing up the sac when I first spotted her, and then spent a couple of hours securing it to the nearby plants.
Did you ever wonder how a spider makes an egg sac? Does she order the basic version from Amazon and then embellish upon it? Hardly. This spider mom took hours to get this accomplished! How does she do it?
A female argiope produces up to three egg sacs in a year. That’s hours and hours of very tedious work. She starts by meticulously weaving a base on which she attaches an egg platform. She then deposits an egg mass that contains 300-1400 eggs all while hanging upside down! Once the egg mass is in place, she then proceeds to weave a multi-layered sack around the eggs and secure the egg sac to the adjacent plants with a scaffolding of silk.
iloveSPIDERZ filmed the entire process…some 8+ hours of video. That’s a lot of work for the spider and the videographer! While most of us do not wish to watch the entire film, I would encourage you to watch the highlights as pointed out in the comments below the film. Truly this is incredibly fascinating! Watch how the spider uses her legs in the weaving process as she wraps the eggs together. (1:11:04) Once you watch even a small portion of this, I feel sure that your respect for this garden visitor will soar!
Then what happens? The female argiope will die in the first hard frost (if not sooner) before she sees her offspring. The eggs will hatch in the fall, but the hatchlings will not emerge from the egg sac until the following spring. Then, as we are all aware, the cycle begins again.
My admiration and respect for my fellow earthlings…no matter their size…grows by quantum leaps as I learn more about them. I think about how much energy and work it takes for most creatures on this planet to live and reproduce. My pledge is to continue to grow in that knowledge and to offer the respect each creature deserves.
Below is a time-lapsed, condensed version of the above film (over 8 hours to just over 7 minutes).
iloveSPIDERZ also shares a video of the argiope weaving her web. Watch carefully how she uses her legs for this process. Wow…