Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Field Notes--Argiope

(Or:  Skip this post if you are my sister:))

 The maples are nearly done, flame fading quickly now into the dusk of autumn...

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.
The Ginkos have come into their own, glowing gold, Roman candles against the sky...

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)
I took one good, long look at that spider and said to myself, "Sweater!"  (Now you will think I'm bonkers:))  Really--look at those striking colors, that spectacular pattern, those groovy stripes... I can totally see Twiggy in a long sweater with just that pattern, worn over a pair of tights with some square-toe flats.  Desho?  Or, a poncho:

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:
Goodbye, Charlotte...

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.


  1. Oh, gorgeous! I just love these ladies.

    Also, upon seeing those stripes, I thought, "Quilt!" so I don't think you're crazy in the slightest. ;)

  2. Yay--a quilt would be gorgeous! Or an afghan...:)) It's very comforting to know that there are others who have the same reaction I do;-)

  3. I wish I had your eye. (Though possibly not your bike-riding skills...)*

    Stunning, especially the St Andrew's Cross spider. I'd never despise anyone for liking Charlotte's Web, though. Anyone who does, please choose your weapons and meet me at dawn...

    "St. Andrew's Cross Spider...never messy or holey" Was that pun intentional?

    *(Or your 'how to please one's siblings' skills :-) )

  4. Damn, I meant to mention this bird I saw on a tv show the other day. Beautiful, n'est-ce pas?

    And it's 'frabjous day'. /pendantry :-)

  5. If you had my bike-riding skills, you'd not be alive to tell us about it:))

    "Holey" (doh!) Totally unintentional--but by all means believe me to be capable of inserting a pun that dreadful... my reputation is in your hands;-)

    Is it "frabjous day"? Shoulda looked it up, instead of relying upon my (nearly non-existent) memory... consider it a paraphrase then (*coughs*)...

    Ooooh!! Checked link! Ooooh!!! A European Bee-eater...checked Avibase, and there's a different species (Rainbow Bee-Eater) here, but only rare/accidental. :(( Want. To See. *Want Tick in bird book!* The nice thing about collecting bird (or flowers or spiders or what have you) via making ticks in a field guide, is that you don't accumulate any actual *stuff*, which does not, then, roll under the bed or need to be folded and put away, or require garaging...:))

  6. `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    "Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!"

    He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought --
    So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
    And stood awhile in thought.

    And, as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!

    One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
    He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

    "And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
    He chortled in his joy.

    `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    Never paste Carroll into a comment box if you value your spell-checker's sanity!

  7. Ahh--lovely. Just sat down with a hot cuppa, too:)) Of course--has to be "day", because after that comes "Callooh! Callay!" Day rhymes with Callay... "he chortled in his joy." And that's where the mistake came in, I suppose.

    I imagine it would be equally detrimental to spell-checker sanity to paste Joyce in there...;-)) Poor wittle spell--checker...

    What kills me is the guess-what-word-I'm-typing box that comes up for Google, Wiki, YouTube... and I've seen it also several places come up while typing in a Word Verification word box before posting a comment. You'd think somebody would have the sense to turn that off...

  8. For google, remake your bookmark to

    That should do it. If not, let me know. There's a couple of other bits that can be tweaked in Firefox, but I'll have to do some digging to find them.

  9. Aha! Thanks--will try that, Master Daz:)) (wait--that comes out sounding different in British English, doesn't it... ararara...)

  10. a big spider. Our little room spider finally moved out of his web. Where he went? no one knows.

  11. Those big spiders don't come in the house:)) Only little jumpy spider up there in the sidebar photo. Maybe your little room spider was a lady and went to make her egg sac? It's getting to be that time of year...

  12. *looks puzzled at the accent thing*

    If you mean 'Master Daz', it's 'master', not 'mah-ster' in my region. 'Mah-ster' is Oxford English though.

    They way you said it there's a pun there though, but I can't find it... :-/

  13. I meant Master of Html--but then it seemed like the way they used to address young boys, and I didn't mean to sound cheeky!

    And now I'm going to sound like a dingbat--because I still can't figure out how to do that (grrrr....). I should just go look through your articles, though, because I'm pretty sure you already posted about that (with reference to Firefox, too, as I recall), and not that long ago:))

  14. Ah, no that was to turn off the instant search thing, where it updates your results as you change the search-term. If google's your homepage, go to tools, options, and paste the address I gave you into the Homepage box. If you bookmarked it, right-click the bookmark, click properties, and change the Location to the one I gave.

  15. I have Google as my home page--but it's an iGoogle page with lots of stuff on it, not just the white Google search page. I went under tools and options and found the box, but will putting that in the homepage box mess up the feeds and quotes and stuff I have on my page?

  16. Erm, dunno. I use the plain old white page. You could try adding /webhp?complete=0 to the end of whatever the url is your igoogle page, and hit 'go'. It'll either work or it won't, but it'll be reversible if it doesn't