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Friday, September 2, 2011

Charlotte's supper...


Last night while bringing the cats in for the night I noticed that the garden spider on the front porch was busily storing a meal for later. Of course I had to run get my phone and take a photo.

This is just one of the garden spiders living on our place. There are bunches of them at the barn, one on the back porch and one in the chicken pen. I call all of them Charlotte after the spider in E.B. White's book, Charlotte's Web. These are actually the seventh generation of Charlottes and are welcome additions to the farm as they catch lots of pesky insects.

Garden Spiders are also known as Writing Spiders or Corn Spiders, but in the scientific world they are known as Argiope Aurantia. They're harmless to people and are very tidy for spiders. Every night they eat the center of their web (which may have tiny insects stuck on it) and build a neat clean center in the morning.

See that thick zigzag line in the middle of the web? Scientists aren't sure exactly why the female garden spider does that. Some theories are that the zigzag is a camouflage for the spider, or a beacon to attract insects, or perhaps a warning sign for birds so that they don't fly into an otherwise difficult to see web and destroy it. Male garden spiders often have a smaller zigzag web near the female's large one.

Late in the summer Charlotte will lay one to four egg sacs that she suspends on or near her web. She will protect them as long as she can, but as Fall arrives she becomes weaker and eventually dies. It always makes me sad when I go out on the porch or to the chicken pen and discover that one of the Charlottes has died.

On the other hand, I'm always thrilled to see one of their babies setting up shop in the same area early each summer and I enjoy watching them grow and live their lives throughout the summer months. 

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