AKA Spiny Orb Weaver
When I first saw this spider I was reminded yet again that I was living in an exotic place. The bright colours and spikes look more sea creature than spider. Colours vary according to location. The spiders on our lot are yellow with black spots but in Florida they have bright red tips on the spikes.
Star spiders like overgrown shrubs, trees and pathways. Until I learned to recognize typical building sites I routinely blundered through many webs. I have learned to be more mindful and so fewer spiders are made homeless these days. Star spiders normally rebuild their webs each evening but I still feel bad about leaving a spider without her web for any amount of time. Webs mean food and security.
The star spider’s web is distinct from other orb webs. An empty space surrounds the centre where she waits for her prey. Strange fuzzy bits mark some of the web’s foundation lines. People offer theories about the fuzzy bits but mostly they are a mystery. One writer suggested the fuzzy bits might act as a warning for birds. This makes some sense to me. The webs are not perpendicular to the ground but tilted slightly. A wren taking flight from the ground might be able to spot the fuzz and manoeuvre away from a sticky mess. Sadly, that little bit of fuzz is less effective as a warning sign for this clumsy human. When accidents occur I usually see the web after I’ve walked into it.
If you spot a star spider it is probably a female since they are considerably larger than the males.
Each evening the female constructs a crisp new web. The next day she relaxes and waits around for the food and fun to arrive. If an insect flies into her web she moves with alacrity toward the struggling thing. She probably doesn’t want its death throes to damage her web so she paralyses her meal before slurping up the milkshake insides. (Her venom is effective against wee insects but harmless to humans).
Sometimes a tiny male or three lurk nearby each hanging by a single simple thread.
Should two spiders discover each other, the sex that follows is a bit kinky. Whatever factor draws the male spider’s desire (web beauty, her simple availability in the neighbourhood or some other unknown) if he decides to visit his approach is exceedingly polite. He does not surge onto the web. He begins by introducing himself. He knocks four times to get her attention. If he thinks he might be welcomed, he cautiously moves forward a bit at a time. If he manages to get to the centre, he wins. She has accepted his advances. I wonder if he realizes what will come next.
To avoid cold feet, second thoughts or some other unknown, the female will strap him down with silken bonds and together they will give that web some good vibrations. Sometimes they will make the web shudder more than once.
If spider porn is your thing, Tristan Tierney filmed a mating couple last summer (June 2013)
I hope it was good for them because once she creates the egg mass she will die. The male will also die within the week.
Before her demise, the female spider will take the egg case to a tree leaf and construct an egg mass that looks like this:
She wraps the egg case in a soft silk blanket and covers it with this yellow coating. In time and if all goes well the spiderlings will hatch and continue the Circle of Life.
From the day we arrive on the planet And blinking, step into the sun There's more to see than can ever be seen More to do than can ever be done There's far too much to take in here More to find than can ever be found But the sun rolling high Through the sapphire sky Keeps great and small on the endless round It's the Circle of Life And it moves us all Through despair and hope Through faith and love Till we find our place On the path unwinding In the Circle The Circle of Life It's the Circle of Life And it moves us all Through despair and hope Through faith and love Till we find our place On the path unwinding In the Circle The Circle of Life (from The Lion King)
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