an acre of spiders

A vexed St. Andrew's Cross spider scuttles up the remnants of its web, climbing up its escape lines after its orb was accidentally destroyed by a passing vehicle.

An Acre of Spiders

When I was a teenager, I did the sort of things all teenagers did: listened to moody music, thought I was the centre of the universe, and spent a few hours every day hanging out with spiders.

I was helped in the last task by a fortuitous geographic location. It so happened that I lived in what was the Mecca of spiders. I soon accumulated so many pictures of spiders and other cool things with more limbs than is deemed decent, that I realised I couldn't fit all of them onto this page. Painfully, I settled onto only including spiders that lived in a smallish distance around where I lived.

A particularly hirsute chap poses for a picture, seconds before attempting to destroy me.

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In which dinner is served

She is so named because her orb has some decorations that look vaguely Christian, but her other name, Argiope, means "silver faced". Here she is, in action. First, a twitchy grasshopper, having drunk too much coffee earlier in the day, mistakes the good-natured somnambulation of an elderly ladybird for a red-toothed predator, and jumps out of the frying pan into the fire.

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Argiope sits at the centre of the orb, thinking about Proust.

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But she quickly senses a disturbance in the force. What new delectable friend has offered themselves up? She feels around with her numerous legs, and feels for the vibrations of her caffienated prey on the many strands of her orb. Ah! There it is. Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!

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She quickly reaches Grassy McHopperface, and brings an end to his wild thrashing with a quick, paralyzing bite. She learnt this trick from a fantastic nature documentary featuring her aunt Shelob.

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Realizing that she wasn't hungry after all (she has just eaten four other insects in the last hour), she decided to wrap it up for later. This would stay fresh for a while longer, perhaps.

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The wrap was a rushed job, but she was a skilled worker. Maybe she should get a job in a Chinese sweatshop making fake Christmas gifts.

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The Beast

She is the most terrifying beast in the Acre of Spiders. She is simply enormous: I've seen some at close to ten inches across. Their orbs are equally enormous: strung from tree to tree, big enough that you could never imagine a spiderweb across a space so huge, and that you nearly walk into, only seeing the massive Giant Woods Spider inches from your face at the last possible second, making you leap back with horror.

Here is a particularly fine specimen, with her body glowing golden in the setting sun following an afternoon shower. She is probably bigger than you see her on screen. Let that sink in for a moment.

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Her colouration screams danger to all: the ominous black and yellow. Her joints have yellow accents, and the underside of her abdomen has beautiful yellow speckles. I've noticed that every beast has a slightly different pattern here, almost like a fingerprint. Her silk gland is a brilliant red.

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She is truly massive, and even the thick fibres of her orb buckle and stretch as she moves ponderously on her silken scaffolding:

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I often saw these small (by the Beast's standards) spiders on her orb, crawling all over her. Given her relatively neutral attitude towards them, I wondered if they were the male of the species.

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The jumper

Not all spiders spin orbs, and hunt actively, moving quickly and jumping onto their prey. They are typically small, and have powerful legs and sharp eyes to spot distant prey. Here is a jumping spider with his line of safety silk, making the rounds on his favorite tree for some tasty critters.

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He has spotted his prey: he stiffens his body, and prepares to pounce.

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A precise, powerful jump later, he is on his prey, who is much bigger than him. No matter: a bite incapacitates his victim.

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In seconds, it is all over, and he carries his lunch (another spider) off to his dining room, where he can eat it in peace.

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Jumping spiders are fast, and they're lethal. This jumper was agile enough to snatch a flying insect out from the air, and to feast on his flesh.

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Grab bag

There are too many spiders to include here; but here are some of the weirder ones. This spider spins elaborate webs that consist of two parts: a flat, dense lower portion, and a tent-like portion that she lives inside of that floats above. I have heard claims that these spiders trap their prey by springing the upper tent-like portion down, but have never seen them feed, so cannot confirm this.

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I disturbed this spider by accidentally tripping one of its lines with the front of my lens. It didn't like my boorishness.

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Can you spot the spider? I couldn't either, at first, and only discovered these by accidentally leaning on the tree and have them scuttle down my shirt. I think this is the same species that was lunch for my jumping spider (though this specimen is much bigger).

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