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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book of the Week: Spiders, Spiders and More Spiders


If you've been outside gardening lately, or even simply taking a closer look at the greenery around you, you probably noticed that you were not quite alone. Indeed, the coming of the warm weather also sparks the coming of a plethora of new life, among them insects and spiders. And if you live in the lower 48 states, Mexico or Central America, you may have seen one of the featured species on EOL - Argiope aurantia - the Black and Yellow Argiope.

Argiope aurantia is one of the "largest and most colorful orbweaving spiders from northeastern to southwestern North American." As orbweavers, Argiope aurantia build spiral, wheel-shaped webs, the round shape of which gives this spider and those with similar webs their "orbweaver" name. The life expectancy of Argiope aurantia in temperate climates is a mere year, with life lasting from birth in the fall to the "first harsh frost in the following year." In warmer climates and captivity, however, the outlook is slightly better for the females, which may live several years. Unfortunately for the males, they probably die after mating in their first year. Nevertheless, the conservation status for this species is good, as their commonality and widespread distribution currently ensures that they are in no danger of going extinct anytime soon.

Argiope aurantia is one of the many species of spiders and other invertebrates featured in this week's book of the week, A Manual of the Common Invertebrate Animals, Exclusive of Insects, by Henry Sherring Pratt (1923), contributed by the Marine Biological Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Within this volume, Argiope aurantia is described as,

"Body large and conspicuous, being often 25mm. long, with long legs; abdomen black and 2 bright yellow or orange bands underneath; cephalothorax gray above and yellow underneath; the web is sometimes 2 feet in diameter and has a zigzag band of silk across the middle; the male has a small, irregular web nearby; [found] in grass and bushes; in open fields, especially near water."

Take a moment to look more closely at this colorful species on EOL and within this week's book of the week. And if you're out and about this summer, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for "zigzag bands of silk" in the grass and bushes, for you might just find that the spash of bright orange or yellow in the middle of the web is indeed Argiope aurantia, the Black and Yellow Argiope.

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