I can’t tell you what it is with me and spiders lately. I walked along the waterway at Wild Horse Pass Resort at dawn on Saturday and was shocked by the size of this spider hanging motionless in her sunlit web.
Honestly. If a big ole spider like this suddenly landed on my shoulder? I’d freak out and probably need psychiatric care. But finding her exactly in the center of that amazing web, posing so nicely just when I was looking to use my camera, was fascinating rather than terrifying.
I had discovered a banded garden spider. The female, much larger than the male, is one of the most substantial of the orb spiders. She spins her web vertically on an east west axis and hangs upside down with her abdomen facing south. This spider matures late in the summer, so hanging out where one’s generous, mostly black belly gathers heat from the sun is a nifty adaptation.
One Internet web site I found said she eats her spider web and spins a new one every day. More scientific journals claim the banded garden spider spends time carefully mending her web. She does sometimes eat the male after mating though, and if he does manage to get away he dies soon enough. The season is late.
The female also weakens and dies as fall comes on, but not before leaving hundreds of eggs in a tidy egg sac secured near the web. This sac is described as shaped like a kettledrum, flat at one end and rounded at the other. The hordes of new baby spiders break free from the sac in the spring and float away on silken threads.
See the stabilimentum? This loose, zigzag-shaped bit of silk is woven into the banded garden spider’s web. Scientists speculate the decorative addition may work like a lure to attract flying and jumping insects. I was wishing it wasn’t there to mar the perfection of the web, but apparently I knew nothing about banded garden spiders.