A Halloween Writing Spider

A big, long-legged, black, orange and yellow writing spider has spun its web right outside my office window, and has been there now for about a week. It hangs there head down and impressive – the perfect Halloween spider, with long, slender orange and black legs spread out over the thick white zig-zagged “writing” in the center of its orb-web. The plump, egg-shaped black abdomen is vividly patterned in yellow spots. This window is on the third floor of our house – a long way from the ground.

The first morning, the writing spider (Argiope aurantia) had captured a katydid. With its long, green folded wings, the katydid looked just about as large as the spider itself, so it looked like too much to handle. But I later read that a writing spider can take prey up to twice its own size. The spider held the katydid by the head or upper parts, and appeared to be in the process of wrapping it in a thin layer of silk.

By late in the day, the katydid lay on the window ledge below the web, a discarded shell, still only partially wrapped in spidery silk. There appeared to be little remaining except for the wings. I think the body of the insect, or its contents, had mostly been consumed.

The next morning, the first katydid shell still lay on the ledge, and the writing spider was holding a freshly-caught big green katydid. Again, the insect appeared to be partially wrapped in silk, especially the upper parts but it also looked as if the spider was feeding on the katydid at that time. After that, I noticed that the window ledge below the spider’s web holds not only the discarded shell of a katydid, but also several other smaller dark and dry-looking remnants of insects. As far as I can see, there are no insects wrapped in silk and stored in the web, though there may be a part of it that’s out of my sight.

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