Hello Stalkers! This is the fortieth edition of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors. We are fast approaching the end of October and the impending holiday season! Be prepared to break out the baster and that special smile you put on for family. But first, let’s have some creepy crawlies for Halloween.
Argiopes are a rather large spider that often have a strikingly colored abdomen. This spider is widely distributed throughout the world. It’s suspected that every country has at least one (if not more) species of the Argiope. Argiope is from the Greek name meaning “silver-faced.” It is also known as the black and yellow garden spider, zipper spider, corn spider, writing spider, wasp spider and the St. Andrew’s Cross spider.
A couple of the above names are due to the zigzag or x shapes it makes in the center of the web and for their habit of resting in the center of the web with its legs outstretched in the shape of an X. The large white shapes it weaves into the web is called the stabilimentum or web decoration. These habits make the spider’s web more visible to larger animals so that they don’t blunder into the web. The stabilimentum also reflects UV light and has been shown to play a role in attracting prey to the web.
When it’s time to mate the male spider (which is much smaller than the female) spins a web alongside the female’s/ After mating, the female will lay her eggs, placing the egg sac into the web. This sac can contain 400 to 1400 eggs. The eggs hatch in autumn, but the spiderlings will stay the winter in the sac. Once the sun is seen a bit more, the spiderlings will emerge during the spring.
Argiopes are harmless to humans. The bite is not poisonous but it will be red and swell up, similar to a bee sting. For a healthy adult, the bite shouldn’t be an issue but the young, elderly or people with compromised immune systems should be careful. As in the case with most garden spiders, they eat insects. Although they are capable of consuming prey up to twice their size, they will not attack large animals. They only bite in defense.
Black widows are one of the more ‘famous’ spiders, known for their distinctive markings and vicious mating habits. The black widow can be identified by the red hourglass-shaped mark on their abdomens.
The black widows venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s but according to National Geographic, most people who are bitten, suffer no serious damage. In humans, the bite can produce muscle aches, nausea and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult and the bite CAN be fatal, especially for the young, elderly and those with compromised immune systems. However, according to NG fatalities are fairly rare. Actually, these spiders are nonaggressive and bite larger animals (such as humans) in self-defense.
Like most spiders, the black widow eat insects and during mating season male black widows. This is where the name comes from. Females will sometimes kill and eat their counterparts after mating. Black widows are solitary creatures year-round except for during this mating ritual. After mating, the female will spin a large web and suspend a cocoon filled with hundreds of eggs. The spiderlings leave their eggs after they hatch.
Here are just a couple of the spiders that Blair has encountered on his adventures.