I was in the kitchen working on my second cup of coffee when I heard my husband shout to me from the hallway on the west side of our house.
"Come quick! And bring your camera!"
Not one to miss what I assumed would be a wildlife encounter since Ralph was calling from the room leading to his vegetable garden, I wasted no time heeding his command.
I'm glad I did because a large, colorful yellow and black argiope spider (Argiope aurantia) had woven an incredibly broad and beautiful web across our house's western exit.
From where we both stood looking out through the door's 9-pane windows, Mama Argiope's 2-inch long body hung upside down smack in the middle of its web's distinctive zigzagging center.
|Ralph reaches through the partially open door to stick his hand behind a large and lovely lady spider|
The black and yellow argiope is a species of orb weaving spider also known as a yellow garden spider, golden garden spider or writing spider, but it can also be called 'Charlotte,' because the spider in E.B.White's classic children's book, Charlotte's Web, was an Argiope aurantia.
|Charlotte the spider's message written in her web|
Although quite harmful to insects - argiope spiders dine on whatever flying insect unwittingly becomes entangled in its sticky web - orb weavers present no danger to people. Quite the opposite. Argiopes are a gardener's friend because their diet often contains pests that would otherwise damage plants.
Unfortunately, that positive attribute isn't enough to dispel its unpopularity. Although Ralph and I appreciate spiders, most people don't. As Wilbur the pig demonstrates in the dialog below, despite his friend's beneficial contributions to society, Wilbur finds its eating habits less than endearing:
[a fly lands in Charlotte's web]
Charlotte: Just a minute, Wilbur.
[she climbs up and wraps the fly]
Charlotte: He'll make a perfect breakfast for me.
Wilbur: [shuddering] Ooooh. You mean you eat flies?
Charlotte: Why, certainly. I eat anything that gets caught in my web. I have to live, don't I?
Wilbur: [nervously] Why, yes, of course. Do they taste good?
Charlotte: Course, I don't really *eat* them, I drink their blood. I love blood.
Wilbur: [gasps] Oh, please don't say things like that.
Charlotte: Why not? It's true.
Wilbur: But it's *cruel*.
Charlotte: Well, *you* can't talk. You have your meals brought to you in a pail. Nobody feeds me. I live by my wits.
Wilbur: It just seems an odd sort of diet.
Charlotte: Do you realize that if I didn't eat them, bugs would get so numerous, they'd destroy the earth? Spiders are really very useful creatures.
As Ralph and I stood inside looking out, it dawned on me that the only way to get into the garden without damaging the spider's web was to duck down and scoot under it, which I promptly did.
|From the outside looking in through the open door|
Once outside, I noticed that the female argiope was not alone. Curled up in an upper corner of the web was a male argiope, much smaller than the female, as male spiders tend to be.
|Ralph points to the male argiope all curled up and waiting for an opportunity to mate|
Like their human counterparts, male web weavers spend much of their life in search of a partner with whom to mate. When they finally find a female of their species, they build themselves a tiny web in a corner of the female's web and try to entice her with music made by plucking the web's glittering strands. Each vibrating pluck of the strings sends a message that the male hopes will entice the female spider to engage in a bit of amorous action. However, unfortunately for the male, there's no happy ending. Once coitus is achieved, the male spider dies and will likely be consumed by its so-called partner.
|Spider - man|
Below is a video I took of the spider - of both spiders - in the web outside the hallway door leading to Ralph's vegetable garden.
Read more stories about Argiope spiders by clicking on these links