A Backyard Naturalist

The spider is at the center of this intricate web with its zig-zag design.

My backyard in west-central Florida is littered with spider webs right now. Things are getting out of control and community pressure will soon rain down on me to remove “those icky things.”  If I don’t do it the association will have the maintenance crew take care of it.  I can assure you the spiders will prefer my methodology as opposed to the take-no-prisoners tactics of the yard crew.

It’s not that I like spiders all that much but they do have a purpose.  They eat all those other insects that I really don’t like — specifically roaches and mosquitos.  So, I tolerate their unsightly webs and they help me out.
Besides, the webs are fascinating.  So many different styles.  Some are simple threads of silky rope seemingly strung with no rhyme or reason.  And, of course, there is the “traditional” web that we have all seen on the cover of Charlotte’s Web.  Some are dense cups silk that trap the poor insects who wander by.  But the prize for artistic impression in a spider’s web  must go to the Argiope family of spiders.  And, while we are at it, they should also get the best costume design award.

Argiope spiders are common in gardens throughout the world and they are quite easy to spot due to their fantastic orb-web with its complex ziz-zag pattern.   This web (above) was easy to spot in my backyard.  From a distance it seemed as if a bit of paper had become lodged in the plants.  It measured about 2″  long and about 1.5″ wide.  The inhabitant was likely a female.  All the reference sources claim the female is larger and this was a large spider.

Argiope spider and nest

She was very tolerant as I fussed around getting the camera set.  The web was low to the ground, maybe six inches up.  This meant getting the tripod in squatting mode and then inching it forward.  I expected her to bolt at any moment but she tolerated me very well. And the detail of spider and web just kept getting better and better.  Her black and white markings were lovely.  There were touches of yellow that was almost iridescent.

The argiope appears to have a fierce face but her eyes are the four small dots at the base of her body.

She was such a poser that I had time to get my Tamron 90mm macro lens and that’s when she really came to life.  Turns out she a face that only a mother could love.  She’s a hairy little thing.  But the face is a trick.  Those two “eyes” are not eyes at all.  She actually has four eyes (no, not glasses) and they are just beneath her furry “face” right above her pincers.

As I got closer she would start a bouncing motion that would vibrate the web and was, no doubt, an alarm directed at this weird beast that was moving towards her.  After all, who knows what she seeing.

Backyards are great places for nature photography.  There will be more accounts about my backyard in this blog. I hope you enjoy them.

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