Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Garden Spiders

I know a couple of women that when they see a spider in the house will put a tissue and then a heavy book on top and leave it until their hubby can do the disposal.  We love our house spiders and just move them to the floor or basement if they get a little too friendly like posing on one's pillow.
The spiders in the garden get a lot of respect too as they play an important part in our ecosystem.
I usually only include an excerpt from my column on a subject but decided to use the whole darn thing this week so that readers will feel a little better about the spiders they see in the garden.

'Spiders belong to the group Arachnida, so named for Arachne, a Greek maiden in mythology who excelled at weaving. Araneae have eight legs and two- piece bodies composed of a head and an abdomen and opiliones also have eight legs but a single body segment.
The majority of spiders found in a garden are orb weavers and they create an orb shaped web. Spinning this type of web is a complex process where support lines are made first, followed by radial lines and then spiral strands spun from the centre out. The strands are made of silk that is excreted from the spinneret glands and each gland produces a different texture of silk. The radial web lines are non-sticky while the spiral strands are sticky to catch prey. Some spiders have the ability to produce an ultraviolet silk to attract insects. Even a just hatched spiderling can create a rope of silk to swing away from the rest of the babies to prevent being eaten.
Spider silk is a protein that hardens as it is stretched from the spinneret glands and it’s quite strong. When the web is completed, the garden spider will wait in the centre upside down for a flying or jumping dinner to land on the web. These spiders have poor eyesight and must rely on sense of touch in the vibrations from a trapped insect. The spider will rush out and wrap the prey in silk to secure it, and inject digestive enzymes into the victim to paralyze and convert the body contents into liquid.
When the insect has broken down, since the spider does not have chewing mouth parts, it feeds by inserting tube-like fangs into the body to drink the fluid.
The garden spider’s sense of touch also provides a method of communication between the males and females. Before stepping on to her web, the male will tap out a message with his intentions so that he won’t be mistaken for prey. The males stop eating during mate hunting and generally die shortly after from malnutrition and exhaustion. Some females keep the egg sacks wrapped in silk in the centre of the web with them for protection.
Wolf spiders are the small brown furry looking ones seen running across garden soil. The female carries her egg sac around with her, attached to her spinnerets. When the eggs hatch, the babies climb on her back and hang on to the hairs for the first few days of their lives.
Opiliones are commonly called daddy long legs, harvestman or shepherd spiders. Shepherd spider originated from when the shepherds in Europe walked on stilts so they could see their herd and harvestman comes from the creatures being sighted during harvest. Easily identified as they look like a pill with legs, daddy long legs is found under logs and other damp spots where they feed on decaying organic matter. Opiliones do not produce silk so are unable to spin a web and they do not have fangs as they are not required for the eating of decomposing vegetative and animal matter. They do however, secrete an unpleasant smelling substance in an attempt to thwart predators.
A garden rich in spiders and webs is very attractive to hummingbirds that like to use the silk to construct their nests and feed the babies the spiders.'

The female araneus diadematus, an orb weaving spider
Her babies that like to huddle for warmth and protection and can be found on the side of a house or fence; this group was on the side of our hot tub

Here they are scattering - so cute, don't you think?


  1. Hi!
    I totally agree with you and love to see the babies in the spring. Actually when they are all busy building the beginnings of little webs if you make a noise they will suddenly drop a few inches.
    I have also noted some large black and yellow spiders here and there that have quite a temper. When they hear a loud noise or water drops land on them they cause their web to sway back and forth quite vigorously. They have long shiny black legs that they line up in pairs. Would you happen o know what they are called?
    Thanks a bunch

  2. Hi Judith... Your comment box has been buggy (pun intended) it hasn't let me type in the box, seems better now!
    Loved your post.. I had no idea they could spin different texture of silk, very cool! I am not afraid (except these giant wood spiders we get, they are creepy), I do escort them outside though:-)
    We have rain rain and more of the same. We haven't had a rain free day in well over a month... It is Seattle but I have never seen anything like this! The news today said we have set a record for the latest date to not reach 75 degrees (still waiting). My poor roses start to open and fill with water and turn brown before opening. On the bright side good weather for planting (poor plant budget, is busted:-)

  3. As a nature lover I cannot step on a spider and if one is in my house I pick it up with kleenex and drop into the garden!I found this post MOST interesting!Thank you for educating me!!

  4. Great shots of the spiders Judith, I leave the spiders alone in the garden to do their job. Thanks for sharing the information on spiders.

  5. Sorry this is just toooo creepy...

  6. giggy@arachnophiles.comOctober 31, 2011 at 2:46 AM

    Hi Judith. I have been in love with tarantulas for years now, and I am slowly adding on the love of the "true" spiders of our world. We live in the mountains of San Diego, and have an enormous number of different species. They are so fun to watch. Their webs are beautiful, and do such a service for keeping the (bad) bug population down. As much research as I have done on tarantulas, I have never heard the details about the webbing. I'm amazed!!! I know spiders are smarter than most people think, but WOW! Thanks for your blog!


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