The rice is harvested, the field stands empty. Wagtails and starlings hunt for fallen grains between the protruding stubble.
The persimmons are deepening--more vermilion than orange.
As I walk, I notice that a great many webs are in tatters or have disappeared completely. When I stopped by the temple this week, the fat Jorougumo who had set up shop on the corner tree next to the steps leading back to the cemetery was gone, a few forlorn strands all that remained of her Walmart-sized web. I didn't have much time that day, but I spent a few minutes looking for egg sacks--no luck. But I assume, since her web is unattended, that she has made her egg sacks, and, having likely consumed her husband at the Last Supper, is now dying herself.
Koshi and I were standing outside talking when something drifted down, brushing Koshi's face. He stepped back, startled, and we looked down to see what it was--Jorougumo, her body completely dessicated, only her legs to identify her by. As though making her egg sacks had literally consumed her. I couldn't help it--I thought of Charlotte's Web (There- I declare it! Now despise my taste, if you dare, Mr. Darcy).
I did, on my rambles, find one egg sack--but a little background first.
On the way up to Kumon to pick up Cici a couple of weeks ago, I was stopped in my tracks by a large spider hanging head-down in the middle of her web, of a similar size, shape, and coloring as Jorougumo--but...different. I managed not to fall off my bike. Or get hit by the truck that had turned when the light changed as it came barreling down the road. Her web was nearly eye-level, right in that border of flowers where I found the morning glory strangling an upstart aster. Same size, same general shape, black, toxic yellow...but no blood red spot on the abdomen:
|Argiope bruennichi-- Wasp Spider (Nagakoganegumo)|
You wanted to see that as large as possible, right?
The striped legs, the similar abdomen--maybe she's just not pregnant yet, or... but one look at her back said "different spider!" A silvery-beige head and black and yellow stripes like...well, like a bumblebee, actually. Easily as big as Jorougumo, though. Scrolling through MushiNavi, I found her easily--and sure enough, new spider! (geek--yeah, and?) Not having a spider book, I had to be content with an internal "Tick!" A trip to Wiki told me that Argiope means "silver face", a name given to the genus because, I assume, of the common feature of the silver-beige head.
|...the biggest one I found...|
I'm really not trying to send you screaming into the next room--that photo just shows the stabilimenta well. See the heavier white zigzags down the center of her web? That's why a cousin of hers is often called the Writing Spider (or Black and Yellow Garden Spider), and thus surely the inspiration for Charlotte. Those prehensile tips of legs, dancing over the gossamer wisp of her web...well, you can hardly fail to be impressed. Looking down the handy photo list at MushiNavi, I discovered--oh frabjous joy!--that I had, on my walks, found not one, but two species of this genus. Cici actually noticed this lovely lady on the way to school--the same day and place, in fact, that we found so many Jorougumo re-spinning their mist-damaged webs. Easily one of the most striking specimens I have found to date:
Legs in the characteristic X-formation, which has prompted the common name St. Andrew's Cross Spider. Meticulously neat spiders, their webs are never messy or holey, and only single-plane (unlike Jorougumo, who maintains a far more chaotic web of two or three planes).
|Argiope minuta-- Small Writing Spider (Kogata-Kogane-Gumo)|
Now look at small Argiope again:
|I see cool fall fashions here...|
See? I'm now enamoured of the idea of knitting a Spider Poncho to go with the Spider Socks and my magnetic sensory field Bat Belt...
On the way home from Kumon, riding by that blue chain-link fence, I glanced over to see if my lovely not-often-seen Naga-Koganegumo was still there. She wasn't--no trace left of her web. Only this, pasted into the center of one of the links:
I felt like putting up a Do Not Disturb sign--it's such an inviting place to poke a stick at, after all. Maybe no one else will notice her egg sac, since most people don't ride their bikes in the dangerous fashion I do (looking at flowers, birds, the sky, everything but the road...). Now that we're friends though (you make friends by learning their names:)), I'll be watching for her children next year.
Mata asobou, ne!
p.s.--I finally had the presence of mind (a rare occurrence, I know) to take a ruler out with me:
|full body length, including legs: 8cm|
|body size: 17mm|
|this one, too, shows a body size of roughly 17mm|
I measured all the ones I could find--the medium-sized Jorougumo averaged about 10-12mm, the jumbo girls (pictured above) were all around 17mm for abdomen size. They would describe an 8cm-diameter circle were I to hold one in the palm of my hand--her legs would easily touch the corners of my palm. They were surprisingly untroubled by the ruler. Even when the ruler accidentally touched a back, as long as I didn't jostle too much, they stayed put. I wish I could thank them for their time, and their contribution to science...but I don't speak Arachnidian.