Top Photo: Spider takes refuge under magnolia leaf.
After my having walked through it’s partially deconstructed web, the architect and builder retreated to the underside of a sturdy southern magnolia leaf. It was an orb weaver which tells you what kind of web it builds and what family of spiders it belongs to, Araneidae.
Araneidae build the stereotypical webs most people are familiar with. The webs are vertically oriented, circular webs placed across paths, roads, walkways, between shrubs and trees, between wires, anchored to buildings and doorways or any other suitable structure. They’re meant to catch insects to be consumed by the resident spider.
I believe the spider pictured is a spotted orb-weaver (Neoscona domiciliorum). These orb weavers take down their webs each morning and rebuild at dusk whether they need to or not. Many other species in the family may rebuild daily out of necessity due to damage done by weather, large insect and bird strikes, and naturalist hiking through their webs. Even so, it’s often a repair job not a complete reconstruction. Domiciliorum seems to prefer total rebuilds, damage or not.
Orb-weavers are more obvious in the fall when they and their webs are at their largest. That’s when we see their intricate creations draped across walkways, doorways, and gardens. They’re present the rest of the summer and early fall, we simply don’t notice them because they’re much smaller and out of the way. With that in mind, are there fewer orb-weavers this fall than in other years? I can confidently say I’ve walked through fewer webs here at the museum this year than last. What do you think?
Wet, chilly weather is not conducive to most insect activity. Though some insects are active during cloudy wet days, warm air and sunshine is preferred by most. But where do all of those insects go when its cloudy and cold?
Ranger Dakota found the monarch butterfly pictured here hanging from the recurved branch of goldenrod on a wet, cloudy day in October. This butterfly is taking a break from it’s long southwestern journey to Mexico to wait out the rain in the garden in front of the Butterfly House here at the museum.