Spider Watching

I think this is a juvenile Argiope spider.  With its legs fully spread, it was about the diameter of a quarter, and its web was about the size of my hand.

During a brief stop at our family’s prairie this morning, I noticed a small spider on its web, and set up my tripod to see if I could photograph it.  Just after I got a couple nice photos, a grasshopper nymph blundered into its web, and the spider leapt into action.  I tried to get pictures of it as it was quickly wrapping the little grasshopper, but I only managed one – it was moving quickly, and there was some vegetation in the way.

I managed to get this shot when the spider paused briefly while wrapping the grasshopper nymph. The image is a little fuzzy because I was shooting through some grass leaves, trying not to disturb the action.

However, once it had its prey stabilized, the spider slowed down and I was able to watch and photograph it for the next 10 minutes or so as it waited for the nymph to become sufficiently paralyzed.  When I finally had to leave, the spider hadn’t yet started to feed.  Instead, it was perched above the nymph with two legs resting on the nymph like it was feeling for a pulse.  Every time the nymph twitched, the spider quickly pulled its legs back as if it had touched a hot stove.  Very carefully, I pulled my tripod away and left the spider to its meal.

This was shortly after the spider finished the wrapping process. You can still see the silk attached to its spinnerets (near its rear end).

…waiting for the grasshopper to stop kicking… I assume spider got to eat it eventually, but I had to get to work.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
This entry was posted in Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Spider Watching

  1. Patrick says:

    The web of life (and death).

  2. Fabulous photos. I have been watchinga teensy spider on our balcony take on Japanese beetles 3 times it size. Love being out on the prairie wetland walk with Sara McClure the other day. Thank you for all you do. Meredith

  3. Laurel Erickson says:

    Amazing photos. Thank you!

  4. Angela says:

    I have spent the last few hours mesmerized by all the photos on your website. You are a great photographer!!! But I am mostly commenting to thank you for documenting your prairie experiences. We planted 10 acres of native prairie this spring and the results appear to be disastrous. The seed companies assure me it will look like garbage the first few years but will ultimately turn out to be amazing. Such a leap of faith!! I appreciate being able to see some of the progression in pictures and through your experiences. Thank you!

    • James McGee says:

      If you could post a link to pictures of what you are seeing you might be able to get some good advice. Prairie restorations often look like a failure for up to the first five years unless you look really close for developing seedlings. However, if invasive species are dominating then it is better to put work into removing them now before the project does become a failure.

  5. anastaciast says:

    Hi Chris!
    I think I have managed to change my password so I can comment on your posts.
    This appears to me to be a Banded Argiope. They are smaller than their cousins. Their legs are banded. When frightened, they will, generally, drop to the bottom of their webs, while the Black and Yellow Argiopes, generally, will shake their web so hard that it blurs.
    These photos are amazing. I love spiders so much!
    Thanks!
    Shala

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