A few days ago a new spider appeared on my veranda, with a web strung across my succulent pot. I’d never seen anything quite like it. She had vertical stripes of silk woven above and below the center section of her web, with her body taking up the space between the two stripes. At first glance, it looks like she’s just part of the stripe. It’s not until you look beneath the web that you see her clearly. I’d not seen a spider with such disproportionately long front legs before — they’re even longer than the legs of crab spiders.
But I have geeky friends, and those friends have even geekier friends who identify such things for a living, and so I learned that this is a cribellate spider, Uloborus plumipes. Unlike most other spiders, this species has no venom. She must therefore be very careful to wrap her prey in silk in order to subdue it, since she can’t just bite it and then back off while waiting for the paralytic to take effect.
Of course, this sucks for the prey. Instead of being nicely paralyzed or even killed prior to being eaten, the hapless insect is very much alive and aware while it’s being consumed. Yuck.
Not that this kept me from feeding my new cribellate spider a fruit fly…which she grabbed, wrapped, sucked dry and dropped within an hour.
She spins new webs every two days, always at night and always with those vertical silk stripes down the center. This morning I came out to find that her web had nearly doubled in size, with more distant attachment points for the anchor strands. (Which is going to be a bit of a pain when I water the plants.) So now I’m wondering, why the larger web? I can think of two reasons. One, she’s grown and her web reflects that. Two, she’s hungry and is spinning a larger surface for catching prey.
Just in case, I think I’ll go hunting for flies.