National Geographic on the veranda

Uloborus plumipes

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.

About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in life. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to National Geographic on the veranda

  1. Brigitte says:

    YOU are hunting flies? I thought you have a cat. 😉

    My cat likes to hunt flies. The downsite is afterward my room looks like this

    So on second thougt, you do it better yourself :-).

    • oregon expat says:

      Simon’s Cat is awesome. Never has cat behavior been captured so perfectly with a few simple lines. Interestingly, that series has become so popular that I’ve even seen Simon’s Cat books here in Portugal. Line drawings need no expensive translations.

      Yes, I do have a cat and yes she catches (and eats, yuck) flies, but she only goes after the big ones. I need small flies for this spider.

      • Alma says:

        Does she also catch bees and other stingy hymenoptera? My neighbors’ cat does, expertly! It worries me a bit every time I see her at it, but I think she knows they’re dangerous and treats them accordingly…

        Have you seen any “dead spiders”, i.e. shedded skins, in the webs? That’s a sure-fire way to know your spider has been growing! 🙂

        • Scout says:

          I don’t have a cat, but my dog tries to catch flies and other stingy hymenoptera (new word for me, thanks 🙂 Sometimes she even succeeds!

          Could it be that your spider is getting ready to lay eggs?

        • oregon expat says:

          My cat did once, expertly — and then got stung in the mouth while attempting to eat it, at which point she decided to treat all stingy hymenoptera with great caution!

          Also, no molts in the web that I can see.

          • Alma says:

            It’s obviously a technique that needs to be mastered. Or maybe Tess was born a bee eater…. (Isn’t that a bird, btw, bee-eater?)

            Just keep feeding your newest pet and I’m sure she’ll grow nice and scary!

  2. oregon expat says:

    (Isn’t that a bird, btw, bee-eater?)

    It is! And one of my favorites. Check out this video to see a bee eater whapping a bee on a power line to de-stingify it — obviously, as you say, a technique that needs to be mastered.

  3. Lilaine says:

    It could be because she’s having little ones to feed ?
    That way she could catch enough flies for the whole family.
    How is she doing, 4 weeks later ?

    Anyway, It’s safer to have a spider on your veranda than to have “une araignée au plafond”.
    Sorry, could only do this one in franglais .. 😉

    • oregon expat says:

      No baby spiders in the web…and the web has gotten smaller again. The spider appears to be the same size, so far as I can tell. And I found a second one in a different plant, plus a third spider of a different species. My veranda appears to be very orb-spider friendly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s