More excitement this summer – mating spiders! I recently posted about some of our summer spider finds in the park. The Golden-silk Orbweaver, Nephila clavipes, at over two inches, was one of the largest we’d ever seen of this species. She was surrounded by smaller males and seemed to be attracting more by the day.
Her web was especially pretty after the many rainstorms we’ve been experiencing. I always expected to find the web destroyed after a heavy rain but the most it seemed to do was break a few strands. We could barely see the silk thread emerging from her spinneret as she repaired her web:
I accidentally hit one of the branches to which she had attached one of the main strands anchoring her web and the disturbance excited the males; several made close passes at her and one even touched her. I suppose they were being cautious because I read that she will sometimes eat the males.
One afternoon, after a particularly heavy rain storm, we decided to check on the spiders. The large web was a little beat up and the female had moved up to one edge. As soon as she moved, several males scampered up to her, lunging at each other on the way.
One, that had established dominance in whatever manner spiders do this, jumped onto her back and sat for a few minutes. He was challenged a couple of times by other males, but managed to retain his position before slowly working his way around to her genital structure, the epigynum, located on the underside of her abdomen.
I couldn’t tell for sure if they were actually mating until we got home and looked at the photos and short video I shot with my little camera. We stayed for about 10 minutes until we were chased out of the woods by another rain shower.
Unfortunately, we left town for almost a week so we couldn’t go back to monitor the spiders’ activity. As soon as we returned, we headed for the park, but all we found was an Orchard Spider that had set up housekeeping where the orbweaver had been the week before. And right at the edge, fluttering in the breeze, a single remaining strand of orbweaver silk and an exoskeleton of one of the males. I’ve read that once she lays her eggs, the female spider dies so here’s hoping all went as it should and we’ll have another generation to watch next summer.