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The Halloween Orb-Weaver

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I found a beautiful big orb web attached between one of our birches and my Gartenmeister fuchsia. I knew it had to belong to one of the spectacular orb weavers of fall, but I didn't know which one. There was a curled birch leaf above the web, where the spider seemed to be hiding. The thing to lure her out was a mealworm, I decided. So one fine sunny morning I flung a hapless mealworm into her web.
It took her awhile to decide to come out. She had been masticating a housefly, and she wanted to be thoroughly finished. When she spit the fly's empty carcass out--ptoo!!--I knew she'd be ready to address the mealworm that had been writhing in her web for a good ten minutes, with the Science Chimp hunkered down, prefocused, waiting impatiently. She dropped on a smooth strand, leg-over-legging to the unhappy mealworm. Oh! A Marbled Orb-Weaver, or Halloween orb-weaver, Verrucosa arenata. I had been expecting perhaps a golden argiope, or garden spider.
First, the paralyzing bite. Must stop the struggles.
And then the silk wrap. She turns the worm like a sausage on a spit, winding silk around and around it, damping down the sines of its struggles.You can see the silk coming out of her spinnerets. Wrap it. Wrap it good.
Now it's time to sever the last strands that connect the mealworm to the web proper.
One by one, she bites them free, until the prey is connected only by two strands.
Then she does the most amazing thing. She hooks thick silk strands to either end of the larva.
She orients herself so the mealworm is behind her, and somehow loops those strands over each of her longest hind legs.
Quickly, she bites the last strands connecting the mealworm to the web, and now it is suspended only from her two legs.

So fast that she's just a blur, she spins around and zips up the web to her leaf shelter, hauling the mealworm like a little trailer behind her.
She zoops up the web so fast, hauling the worm, that it makes me laugh out loud, reaching the curled leaf shelter in a matter of a second or two.
She whips around and somehow affixes the larva to her shelter, and prepares to settle in for a delicious mealworm brunch.
What a privilege to watch her prepare her meal. Worm. Mealworm.


Very interesting, thank goodness that is not the way I have to fix lunch, brunch or anything else!!!
As always great shots, Julie! :-)
When you all coming down to see Pokey-Pie???? The kids will love him!

Meal. Worm. Mealworm. BWAAAAHA HA HA HA!

"damping down the sines of its struggles"... that's almost poetic (the whole post is almost poetic!)

Isn't it amazing how all the precise instructions for doing just this are somehow encased in whatever passes for the brain of such a teensy creature! DNA -- mindboggling stuff!

WOW! How cool is that? :c)

You know, I have to say that as a certified (certifiable? definitely unreasonable!) arachnophobic I have thoroughly enjoyed your last couple posts. I can't explain my fear of spiders, but I'm seeing their beauty through your eyes. Thank you.

Oh the lengths to which you will go to provide a great series of pictures. Absolutely fantastic. I haven't sat for 10 minutes watching a spider since I was 11 years old. Thanks for being so patient. It certainly paid off for us.

That's some fancy spider! Thanks for the incredibly cool post. (I guess this means I'm arachnophilic.)

As a certified arachnaphobe....I really can't stand these creatures, yet, every year, they show up, en masse, in my garden, which is native plants, no pesticides or herbicides.

I don't go out in my garden from mid-July til the first hard frost. I don't go out in my little prairie, either. Because they're there, and I know it. Them and those arigopes. What to do? I have weeding to do, and seeds to collect.

I have DH go out with those landscaping flags, and mark off the area around those big orbs!

Works really well. Keeps me away from the nasty things, and lets me and them live out our lives in peace.

When I take down the garden in March, if I find their egg-sacks...I transport them out to the easement, where I never go except in early spring.

I really hate it though, when they build a big orb across my back door. Then I'm trapped in the house.

I prefer box turtles to spiders, but this post is a treasure! I love the shot of the spider in the curled leaf - COOL!

WOW! What a cool thing! Great description, and how interesting.


I'll admit to standing for periods of time watching an Orb Weaver wrapping its meals. In Delaware, there was one I watched every evening for about a month - folding up its web for the night (do Orb Weavers do that?).

Yeah, toss a mealworm and shoot away!

Awesome, Julie!


What a great idea, to throw the spider a mealworm. I have never thought of this. I will try this. Thanks for a great idea.


Dear Ms Zickefoose:

I represent the Mealworm Protection Society, and I would like you to know that we thoroughly disapprove of your cruel, inhumane, and just plain mean handling of our brother, Melvin H. Mealworm. He was a good worm, well-loved in the community, and he will be missed by many.

It is completely untrue that Melvin was observed consorting with Regina Ringworm after last Saturday's Vermiform Ball. He was merely scratching an itch for her. Tales of more illicit exploits, like paying hookworms, are blatant lies.

In the future, if you feel the need to feed spiders, we suggest you use soy proteins rather than beautiful, sentient creatures like mealworms.

Thank you,

E. Kitt Earthworm, as dictated to KatDoc (worms don't gots fingers for typing)

Dear Ms. Kitt-Earthworm (may I call you Eartha?)

We at the Tenebrio Tormenting League find it interesting that you, an annelid, have leapt to the defense of a creature that is, after all, the larva of a beetle, Tenebrio molitor. Isn't that well outside your jurisdiction? A worm is a worm, unless it is a beetle.
We will refer your complaint to Shelly and Shoomie, who have much more direct experience with annelids than do we. Be aware that they can be slow to respond.

Again, much more entertaining than the debates tonight :o)

Yeah, the dopey forum won't allow either of the candidates to wrap the other in silk and deliver the poison bite. Seems like a series of pre-fab speechlets-on-demand. Certainly anything but a debate. I'm stickin' wif spiders.

All "worms" are brothers under the skin. Ringworm (a fungus), tapeworms, bookworms (my sister), even mind worms are all welcomed without prejudice.

If you want to pick on somebody, go see what crime KatDoc has perpetrated this evening, in the name of a good night's sleep.

Eartha, who has a phobia about box turtles

Interesting. There is more communication among your blog readers than there was during the debate last night.

I do so love reading the interchanges between you and Kathi.

Ya, well here's da deal. Regina Ringworm is my wife, 'n dat Melvin guy wuz jest a rat-in-mealworm-clothes. Me 'n my bro wuz fixin' ta take care o' da situation. Ol' Mel woulda never made it to metamorphosis no matter what. Dat human Julie jest saved us da trouble o' gettin' our spores dirty. I'd squirm wit pleasure jest thinkin' o' ol' Mel, gettin' dem fangs sunk inta 'im an' turnin' ta liquid--if I wuz another kinda worm what could squirm.

--Ralph Ringworm II

I don't think I've seen that type of spider.
I got this one the other day, a spider eating a preying mantis.

Wonderful documentation, and so interesting to watch unfold.

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