Come fall, these spiders are everywhere. Between trees, power lines, fenceposts, they appear suddenly in September. Seriously, you can't walk between any two things without getting a face full of spiderweb. The females are the big ones. Below you can see both the gigantic female and the rather puny-looking male:
Isn't she spectacular! Awesome Halloween colors--black, toxic yellow, and blood red.
She doesn't look all that small in this shot (taken 09/17), but wait a few more weeks...
This particular day was halfway between misting and raining. It had stopped by the time I left school to walk home. The sun, halfheartedly breaking through the clouds, burned off the mist, As I walked along a tall row of bushes flanking the road, every spider I saw was busy repairing her rain-damaged web. See:
Her back has neon yellow stripes and the red spot on her abdomen gets bigger and redder as she eats...
Yes, I was standing with my face about three inches away--these spiders are, as I said, everywhere, including stretched across the front of a row of bushes. At eye level.
Look closely--you can see her eyes, too. (not that closely, though--my camera doesn't have *that* much zoom).
Jorougumo ( Nephila Clavata)--Binding Lady
a member of the Golden Orb-Web spider group
MushiNavi has a bunch of show-stopping (or heart-stopping as the case may be) shots of Jorougumo. According to my mom friends, they aren't poisonous even though they look like they ought to be. They made me nervous the first few times I saw them. Now that I'm more or less used to them, I think they are spectacularly beautiful spiders. In fact, I've been watching them so much that I think I'm not scared of spiders anymore. Watching spiders has become as interesting as watching birds--I get all excited now when I see a new one I need to look up. My daughter and I found four completely different, all very beautiful, spiders that day walking along the hedge across from the school. Since this post is getting long, I'll put them up later (she said, much to her sister's consternation...:)).
See--look, Daddy. You don't have to come kill spiders for me anymore. I can pick them up and put them back outside all by myself! Here's the biggest one I found today (10/29):
|I wonder if that swollen abdomen means she's pregnant?|
Riding my bike home after walking the kids to school, I counted 42 Jorougumo webs before I gave up counting--and I wasn't even halfway home! Caught one having breakfast:
Somehow she just doesn't seem quite as...friendly as Charlotte...
According to Japanese folklore, Jorougumo ( whose name written with a different set of kanji can mean "Whore Spider") is a shape-shifter, like Kitsune (Fox) and Tanuki (Raccoon Dog). In the Tonoigusa, an Edo period collection of stories, Jorougumo changes into a beautiful woman and asks a samurai to marry her. In other stories, she traps a man with her silk and eats him--perhaps a reference to the fact that the females of this family usually eat their mates (kowai!) In the photo below, look carefully and you can see the golden color of the web silk that gives this family of spiders its name. The related species in the U.S. is Nephila Clavipes, but only in the south (which explains why I, being from Indiana, had never seen one of these before).
|...nom, nom, nom ...|
The little Buddhist temple up the road has a cemetery in back that abuts the mountain. The Jourogumo back there were simply enormous. I had to walk slowly to avoid walking through webs.
In the course of observing spiders far more closely than I have ever done, I realized with a start that a spider's web is not it's home. Well--it is, and it isn't. It's her shopping cart. It's how she eats. An entomologist may well disagree with that notion, but I think it's apt. If you think about it, a spider hanging head down in the middle of her web is extremely vulnerable--to predation, to accidents, to the elements. A house is a shelter--it's supposed to protect from those dangers. In the video above, the spider fled to a corner of her web when she was startled by a passing car. Had something touched her web, she'd have climbed one of her anchor threads and hidden in the bush. At the temple, one enterprising jorougumo had anchored her web in a corner of the temple itself, relying, I suppose, on the protection of the Buddha to keep her from harm and fill her web with food. As I watched, a grasshopper blundered into her web--a feast! And I discovered how the males get a bite to eat--quietly, stealthily, down from a corner of the web, up and over his busy mate's abdomen, to reach the struggling grasshopper, et viola! 3 ji oyatsu--a 3 o'clock snack...
Just mentioning the elements reminds me that a typhoon is coming this weekend. Oh no! All those webs will be ripped apart in the wind--especially webs strung between trees or power lines. I wonder where they hide during a storm? In knotholes? Under leaves? In the ground? I could look it up, I suppose, but I'm going to see if I can find out for myself.
This just in! As pasted from Wiki:
Researchers, lead by Masao Nakagaki, at Shinshu University, Japan have succeeded in creating a silk thread that is stronger, softer and more durable than conventional silk by injecting silkworm eggs with genes of the spider. The silkworms that hatch weave cocoons containing 10% spider protein. The dragline silk is said to have many uses, such as: bulletproof vests, sutures after an operation, tennis rackets, fishing line, and nets. A Japanese manufacturer named Okamoto has begun developing commercial applications for the spider silk, and plans to release extra-thin, durable spider socks by year 2010.Spider socks?!! Must. Have. Now. I totally need spider-silk socks to go with my magnetic sensory field bat belt...
Mata asobou, ne!
p.s.--I got so many mosquito bites taking these pictures, you just have no idea!
p.p.s.--I managed to not fall off my bike. But that's because I was walking, although I nearly fell into a cistern...