A SPIDER EMERGED

We have had to cover our pool to slow down the rapid evaporation of water during this drought. This spider emerged from underneath once we had unfolded the cover and flattened it out across the surface of the pool. It was not impressed.

We helped it out of the pool and watched as it moved along the brick surround. It clearly wished to find another peaceful place to hide.

The spider climbed up the side of a bucket nearby.

And, I can only think, bared its fangs at me!

We put it in the Spekboom growing nearby and its scuttled away quickly to find a new lair.

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SPIDER WEBS

Dew is one’s greatest friend when trying to capture the intrinsic beauty of a spider’s web. The first two photographs show the webs of a type of funnel web spider. There were several of these dotted about on the course grass on the verge of the road.

Here the dew drops highlight the pattern of a different spider web on a barbed wire fence.

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to get a larger view.

SPIDER ON THE WALL

An apt excerpt from a poem of the same title by Rani Turton:

Spider on the wall,

You can see us all

Do you wonder as to why

We scurry and worry?

We have our lives to live

(Four score and ten)

Waiting and worrying, often.

This is not the bedtime companion of choice, even high up on the wall, and so I keep a wary eye on where it might be just before I switch off the light!

You can read the full poem at https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/spider-on-the-wall/

NOTE: Click on the photograph if you really want to see a larger view of my bedtime companion.

DRAMA IN THE GARDEN

My mid-morning tea in the garden was interrupted by something odd running across the dry grass: a spider-hunting wasp (belonging to the family Pompilidae)! I rushed indoors to fetch my camera … where had the wasp got to? Then I saw it dragging the spider along the brick edge of the swimming pool.

It was battling against the stiff breeze. Although these solitary wasps paralyse their prey with their powerful venom after capturing it, the movement of the legs of the spider indicated that the process was not yet complete.

It was dragging its prey perilously close to the edge of the pool when a gust of wind blew the spider over the edge. The wasp held on tightly. While this is not a good picture at all, it shows the tenacity of the wasp, which continued to carry its prey along the wall like this for some distance.

Inevitably, the wasp lost its grip and the spider fell into the pool.

The spider seemed to expand and contract its legs experimentally whilst floating on its back while the wasp flew frantically back and forth, trying to hook onto the spider. Mea culpa, I lifted the spider out of the water with the pool net and stood back to watch what would happen next. Within seconds the wasp had the spider in its grasp once more.

As it resumed its journey at considerable speed, the stiff breeze brought them teetering close to the edge of the pool once more.

The wasp tugged and pulled against the breeze – the end of its journey was in sight: the site of its prepared burrow in a crack between the rocks at the end of the pool, where it dragged the spider down in a flash! There the wasp will lay an egg in the abdomen of the spider before exiting the nest and concealing its entrance.

NOTE: Please click on the photographs if you wish to see a larger image.

SOCIAL SPIDERS

There is a dearth of information about these social spiders (Stegodyphus dumicola) on the Internet. Asking about them at the reception counters of some national parks is a waste of time as one comes up against blank faces of incomprehension. Yet, the large untidy webs – often mistakenly referred to by tourists as ‘nests’ – are very obvious in places such as the Kruger National Park, the Mountain Zebra National Park and in the Addo Elephant National Park.

The average tourist cannot get close enough to the nests to observe them closely – hence the wonderment at what might have made these enormous webs featuring tunnels and chambers attached to branches. One conglomerate web often appears to be connected to another lower down, or even on a nearby bush.

On closer inspection, even from one’s vehicle, it is clear that these large webs have been spun with cribellate silk which is produced from numerous tiny silk glands underneath a specialized spinning organ called the cribellum. A lot of dried leaves and other debris, including the remains of creatures caught in the web – beetles and flies for example – is caught up in the web and helps to create their rather shaggy appearance.

Apparently all the spiders combine their efforts both to catch their prey and to maintain the web. Their webs remind me of those enormous nests built by the Sociable Weavers, such as this one in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Some useful sites to visit on the Internet:

http://www.hannesmitchell.co.za/communitynestspiders.htm

https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(07)01498-4

http://hebetslab.unl.edu/portfolio-posts/cribellate-vs-ecribellate-silk/

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/05/crebillate-spider-web/528585/

BATHROOM VISITOR

This spider spent about a week in the same place just below our bathroom ceiling. During this time it went through the process of ecdysis, or shedding its skin, after which it barely moved. Spiders are vulnerable to attack during this period, as the new exoskeleton is still very soft.

A FLESHY SPIDER

My eye was caught by a blob stuck behind a broken sheet of plate glass leaning against an outside wall:

I was looking at the underneath of a spider – an unusual sight, even though it was through dirty glass. By pulling the glass away from the wall, I could see the top of the spider:

It looked as if it was curling up as tightly as it could against the bitterly cold weather – I suspect it is a rain spider. Then a patch of sunlight fell upon it: