Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day trip to Florida (waiting for a hurricane !)

Well, here we go again with yet another spider story! It is always fun to go visit my parents in Florida. They have a 3-acre lot, mostly wooded, in the Panhandle area. I love going out to the yard in the morning or late afternoon, when it isn't so hot, and looking for critters. As my mother and I were walking in the yard I spied a HUGE (>3" leg span front to back) yellow spider in the middle of her web. It was a female Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes).

Golden Silk Spider - top view (l);bottom view with smaller male (r)

I quickly ran in and grabbed my camera, then snapped away. The more I looked, the more details I noticed. She was not alone! There were 5 much smaller (~1" legspan) males scattered around the web. Only one was brave enough to court her! I also noticed several small spiders with conical, shiny, silver abdomens (Argyrodes elevatus) a.k.a. "Dew-drop Spiders". They were kleptoparasites (food stealers) that live on the larger spider's web and eat small prey.

I had seen the Golden Silk Spider in the Everglades many years ago and I wondered how they had yellow silk when all other spiders have white. When I looked closely at the strands I saw they were white, it was the tiny droplets of sticky substance on the web (I call it "spider glue") that was yellow, giving the web its golden hue.

I also filmed a Passionflower bud opening. This is a video of the bud as my mother and I watched it open. The interesting thing is how the hinged yellow stamens flip over as the petals, sepals and corolla (fringed part) move apart.

We got everything as ready as possible for the arrival of Hurricane Gustav. Having gone through Erin in '95, and cleaned up from Ivan in '04 and Dennis in '05, we wanted to be ready for Gustav's wrath. Fortunately, we were at the far eastern edge of the storm and only received a little rain, wind and some lightning. I just hope the other 3 storms out in the Atlantic will behave themselves and not cause a lot of trouble!