Golden Garden Spider
MY DAILY TREK 8/16/08:
Today I ventured out on my daily trek around 6 PM. I thought I would take some pictures in the field behind my house, then go check for turtles at the creek and then head over to a local lake. I got to the field behind my house and made my way to an area of rocks surrounded by weeds and wildflowers. I took a seat on a familiar rock and watched and waited as things buzzed by me and the wind blew a warm breeze through the wildflowers. I saw bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers and butterflies. But nothing out of the ordinary or at least that I felt compelled to photograph. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a ferocious movement accompanied by a loud buzzing sound, which then stopped suddenly. This movement and sound would start and stop every few seconds. It was too far away for me to make out, but from a distance it looked like a caterpillar caught in a web. But caterpillars don't make sounds? The buzzing was a unique sound that once you have heard you will likely not forget. It was the sound of a cicada. A cicada? A cicada caught in a web? I thought to myself, no way, there is nothing big enough to eat a cicada. I made my way over to the buzzing movement and sure enough it was a cicada caught in a spider web. I was going to take a picture but he seemed like he was near the end of his fight and I figured I would leave him in peace.
As I looked closer, I saw an insect graveyard full of mummified victims, beneath this web of death. Several cicadas and grasshoppers had met their demise here and their mummified carcasses lay haphazardly discarded beneath the web. Slowly my heart started to beat faster. What was eating these huge insects? As I took a moment to ponder what kind of Jurassic beast this might be...I looked several feet in front of my face and was struck by a bright yellow and black pattern behind a leaf. Is that a SPIDER???? I backed up. My heart beating faster I looked at this creature in disbelief. I have never seen a spider this big in the wild. Now keep in mind, I am not scared of many things. I like insects of all kinds, reptiles, snakes, frogs, toads, turtles...you name it. I am also a huge horror movie fan and can stand watching most horror flicks without a flinch. But this creature, this beautiful monster, with striking colors, and sprawling legs made me feel a tad light headed. I was sure it was some kind of venomous beast that could jump 50 feet and was going to attack me with malice at any moment. I would soon be paralyzed by its venom, doomed to become yet another mummified trophy, entombed in silk and discarded amongst the other unlucky victims. Get a grip on yourself I thought. It's just a spider. I took as many pictures as I could, moving closer in and then quickly out as my fear came in waves. Slowly, as I snapped photos, zoomed, used macro, changed positions, my respect for this spider increased. What a magnificent, striking and amazing insect! I left in awe, another day in the wild, tackling Jurassic arachnids in the insect jungle that has become my second home. The best part, I learned something new. I found an insect that was new to me and learned as much as I could about it. That is the silver lining every time I come home with new pictures. I continue to learn about this great earth and it's creatures. When you start paying attention to all the details around you it opens up a whole new world. I just hope the Golden Garden Spider doesn't mind me poking around her world while she weaves her silken web. Did I mention, like almost all other spiders, Argiope are harmless to humans. Like most garden spiders they eat insects, and they are capable of consuming prey up to 200% of their size! Yikes, how much do I weigh again?