Publications

Intimidating Beauty

Intimidating Beauty
Jim Lane

I can’t talk about what I like at cocktail parties.  I find things like the Black and Yellow Garden Spider  (Argiope aurantia) fascinating and beautiful.  I admit that the idea of having one crawl up my arm does not appeal to me, but I have really enjoyed watching these intimidating beauties make a living.  We had one live right outside our kitchen window for months giving me time to figure out how to set up a tripod in the kitchen sink, much to my wife’s dismay.

Argiope aurantia is a beautiful black and yellow hand sized spider.  I have seen them in conspicuous webs in what seem like public places.  A lot of spiders are pretty much invisible unless there is dew in their webs early in the morning.  In contrast, I have seen Argiope aurantia webs right in front of our kitchen window or attached to a street sign with no vegetative cover.  Some must be secretive because I don’t seem them all the time, but periodically I find one that doesn’t seem to mind being in the open.

This comfort with an audience gave me the opportunity to observe their behavior and enjoy them doing what comes naturally.  For example, this photo sequence shows a female sitting quietly in her web.  Four minutes later, a yellow jacket had gotten entangled in her web.  She was on it so quickly that the camera didn’t even record a time difference in hundreds of seconds before she already had it wrapped at least once.  At one minute and 17.5 seconds, she has it wrapped up and the wasp is attempting in vain to defend itself with its stinger.  You can clearly see its stinger extending through the web wrappings.  In the final shot in that sequence you can see her mandibles as she bites her prey.  During the summer she lived in front of our window, I saw several wasps dispatched in this way.  Just four hours later she had another one.

I can’t talk about what I like at cocktail parties.  I find things like the Black and Yellow Garden Spider  (Argiope aurantia) fascinating and beautiful.  I admit that the idea of having one crawl up my arm does not appeal to me, but I have really enjoyed watching these intimidating beauties make a living.  We had one live right outside our kitchen window for months giving me time to figure out how to set up a tripod in the kitchen sink, much to my wife’s dismay.
Argiope aurantia is a beautiful black and yellow hand sized spider.  I have seen them in conspicuous webs in what seem like public places.  A lot of spiders are pretty much invisible unless there is dew in their webs early in the morning.  In contrast, I have seen Argiope aurantia webs right in front of our kitchen window or attached to a street sign with no vegetative cover.  Some must be secretive because I don’t seem them all the time, but periodically I find one that doesn’t seem to mind being in the open.

This comfort with an audience gave me the opportunity to observe their behavior and enjoy them doing what comes naturally.  For example, this photo sequence shows a female sitting quietly in her web.  Four minutes later, a yellow jacket had gotten entangled in her web.  She was on it so quickly that the camera didn’t even record a time difference in hundreds of seconds before she already had it wrapped at least once.  At one minute and 17.5 seconds, she has it wrapped up and the wasp is attempting in vain to defend itself with its stinger.  You can clearly see its stinger extending through the web wrappings.  In the final shot in that sequence you can see her mandibles as she bites her prey.  During the summer she lived in front of our window, I saw several wasps dispatched in this way.  Just four hours later she had another one.
 

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