Monthly Archive for February, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

The benefits of our rehabilitation are really starting to become apparent and one of the things we have noticed is an increase in insect diversity. When we began this project we saw few insects. We would see the big bumbling Carpenter Bees as they moved around the Keurboom trees, we would see Mosquitoes and we would see the odd Rain Spider.

Each year there has been an increase in diversity that includes plants and insects and I was reminded of this while on a walk a few days ago when I encountered a Garden Orb spider. These beautifully marked spiders should be common but this is the first one we have seen at Reflections. These spiders have always been a favourite of mine and is always a great subject for conversation on my walks.

Garden Orb female

Garden Orb female

The web they spin can be in excess of 6 feet across and has a beautiful golden sheen to it. It is one of the thickest and strongest of all spider webs. One of the more noticeable features is the zig-zagging white stabilimentum in the centre. This adds elasticity as well as possibly acting as a visual cue for birds so that they can avoid flying into it.

The female spider would have arrived first and the much smaller male would have arrived later after following a scent trail of pheromones. He avoids her by staying in corner out of here way and will only mate with her while she is occupied with feeding.

Garden Orb male

Garden Orb male

Mercury spider

Mercury spider

The large Orb spiders often catch small flying insects that they don’t bother with but these are used by a smaller, parasitic spider that ” borrows” the web. It is called a Mercury spider because it looks just like a small silver dot of Mercury.