October 10th, 2007
Life and Death Struggle [Updated]

spider attacks crab spider
A shy arabesque orb weaver.

Dateline: October 9, 2007

I was distracted by violent movement from the web of a spiny-backed orb weaver. These little fellers have been very active this year and walking through the garden lately is like walking a spider obstacle course. Going over to investigate, I saw the spiny-backed orb weaver struggling with something much larger. At first I thought it was a red wasp. I went to get my camera which sees much better than I. As I crept in closely for a photo, the larger creature ran nimbly up one of the threads holding the web to the tree. I held still and it ran back down to finish off its dirty deed, for it had attacked the smaller spiny-backed orb weaver and rent its web in the struggle.

Update: October 10, 2007

I sent some photos to Jerry Cates of Bugs in the News and he identified the spider as an arabesque orb weaver, Neoscona arabesca. As it turns out I completely misread what I had observed. The web belongs to the arabesque who builds it every night and dismantles it every morning when it is light. The small object is most likely not another spider but just a nasty bug that the spider is cleaning up for me.

I confirmed his hypothesis by going out this morning to have another look. The web that had completely disappeared by mid-morning yesterday had been rebuilt. And there was the arabesque orb weaver curled up in the center. It is very camera shy and every time I tried to get close to it to get a photo in the low light of dawn, it would run up a thread to the tree above. I have to say that I wish the spinyback orb weavers would take a page out of their cousins book and dismantle their webs every morning!

arabesque orb weaver, Neoscona arabesca

Isn’t it amazing to believe one’s own eyes and then discover that one is completely wrong. I have to learn to see with better eyes than this.

by M Sinclair Stevens

13 Responses to post “Life and Death Struggle [Updated]”

  1. From KAT:

    That is some fearsome spider! I don’t have a Texas field guide and didn’t see it on this page: http://www.bugsinthenews.com/spiders_in_the_fern_bluff_mud.htm
    but I didn’t look at everything. You got a great photo, and it should be easy to ID.

  2. From KAT:

    Ummm, usually my grammar isn’t that bad, but I get excited by spiders.

  3. From Carol:

    Yuck! I don’t like spiders. Why did I look at that picture? Sorry, I’m no help with identification, and I just hope there aren’t any of those in Indiana.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  4. From Layanee:

    That is quite an ugly one isn’t it! I walk through the woods and come out with spider webs all over me! I don’t mind the spiders as much as the webs! I’m happy to hear that you now have gardening buddies!

  5. From Annie in Austin:

    How funny that just as gardeners were tiring of the endless webs of the harmless spiny orb weaver, something potentially dangerous appears!

    Carol had best refrain from clicking on the link, but perhaps something here looks familiar, M:


    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  6. From Kris at Blithewold:

    TWO INCHES?? Are you kidding?! – That’s nightmare sized! eeeessh! I hope you find out that it’s not a danger and that you NEVER find one in the house – dangerous or not! (involuntary shudder)

    Oh, it was much smaller than this wolf spider I found last month when cleaning the front bedroom. –mss

    wolf spider

  7. From Bonnie:

    Cool photos! It took me a while to decipher them but just incredible shots.

  8. From Annie in Austin:

    Thanks for the update and the link to the Jerry Cates site, MSS. It was cool to see the arabesque orb weaver identified.

    Now you’ll have to watch out for a type of small ichneumon wasp that parasitizes this spider:

    Man, it really is a bug-eat-bug world, isn’t it.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Interesting. They cycles of life and death play out quite dramatically in the garden. What do spiders dream, I wonder. Time to read Charlotte’s Web again.

  9. From Yolanda Elizabet:

    Ewwwwww and yuck. I really don’t mind spiders but I’m not keen on close ups of them. I can understand why those spiders are camera shy; pretty they certainly ain’t! 😉

    Well, spiders aren’t as cute as all your kitties but I find them interesting in their own way. And they certainly earn their keep in the garden. — mss

  10. From CarolJ in Dripping Springs, TX:

    We’ve had spiders galore out here this year. Mostly those big brightly colored garden spiders (Argiope aurantia).

    Your photography of this spider is wonderful, and your story and moral were very thought provoking.

    Thanks. We are often blinded by our own first impressions. I’m glad that Jerry Cates helped me take a second look. — mss

  11. From Angelina:

    I absolutely 100% respect the importance of spiders in our world but I can never get over the shivers they give me. I am all at once fascinated by them and freaked out by them. Max and I have done much bug observing, something I very much enjoy as long as they don’t follow me inside.

  12. From Carol:

    Oddly enough, and I don’t know why, I came back to this post to read the comments. I had a spider one year who built a web every night around a hanging basket on the front porch, and then in the morning the web would be gone.

    We have wolf spiders, too, and my sister especially seems to have great big ones at her house.

    I’m still all creeped out by these spiders.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  13. From KAT:

    Thanks for the update. That is one fine spider. We are notorious for our tolerance of spiders and insects in the house. We have some very small kitchen spiders, and I am very touched when I run across their webs with four or five ants in them. It does nothing to stem the summer ant onslaught, but I appreciate their help.

    You have created a wonderful haven for these creatures.