Where’s Wilbur?

Autumn is definitely in the air. As I’ve grown older, my appreciation for the season has increased. Several weeks ago, I spied a spider outside one of my office windows. It was large … and scary. Then last week, I noticed the web was there but the spider had disappeared. (My first hope was it hadn’t sought shelter and managed to come inside my house!)

Today, I peered out a second office window to discover a similar spider ensconced directly at (my) eye level! The creature has spun a beautiful, wide-ranging web just four inches from the window glass. I snapped this photo through the glass with my iPhone, so the quality isn’t great, but sufficient for my example.2014-09-22 15.16.48Naturally, I decided to learn more about this particular spider and come to find out, one of its common names is Writer Spider! The species name is Argiope aurantia and there are other common names:  black and yellow garden spider (how descriptively original!), corn spider, and golden garden spider. I, however, will stick with the name Writer Spider.

Why is the spider called that, you ask? (My exact question I the instant I read the name.) If you look closely, there’s a white zig-zagged web beneath the spider. This is called a stabilimentum which Wikipedia explains as:  A web decoration or stabilimentum (plural: stabilimenta) is a conspicuous silk structure included in the webs of some species of spider. Its function is a subject of debate.

2014-09-22 18.34.14Unfortunately, my photos didn’t do the stabilimentum justice. In the top photo, it’s slightly visible. In the photo at left, it’s more visible but its visibility is lost with the reflection of sunshine.

Still, with a bit of maneuvering and thanks to the setting sun, I managed to snap this second picture of the spider, sections of its web glistening from the sunshine, PLUS my little iPhone captured the spider’s shadow on the window glass! (Just overlook the dirty glass please!) While I’m far from a professional when it comes to photography, I was pleased to get the sun in just the right position for this shot. (It had to be quick, too, before the sun dropped below the tree-line.)

I found another blog where multiple additional names for the spider are mentioned as well as some suggestions related to the purpose of the stabilimentum.

It’s fascinating to observe this aspect of God’s marvelous creation that I’ve never seen before. While we were watching it through the window, my son saw a grasshopper wandering in the flower bed beneath the web. He suggested the spider might have its eye targeted on a future meal. So far though, the grasshopper has avoided the snare.

My adult grandson reminded us of E. B. White’s children’s story, Charlotte’s Web. I guess any talk about spiders always evokes the fanciful tale of Charlotte’s efforts to save old Wilbur from being slaughtered.

For the moment anyway, I am content for Writer Spider to produce her egg sac nearby and die … on one condition – when Spring arrives, her offspring must venture far and wide away from my flower bed, away from my house. If the best-case scenario is three spiders staying behind (as in Charlotte’s Web), I suppose I might be able to accommodate three (only outside though). More than that and I’m likely to enlist the exterminator’s help!

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