Photo Adventures with Curiosity and Learning

May 5, 2007: Looking for Argyrodes and Nephila
and finding also Argiope

Today was the first day I've felt half decent in about 6 weeks. Not wishing to overdo it, I went to my favorite food stall: #01-544 where I had a really nice clay pot lunch with noodles and a tall glass of lime juice. Then off to my small insect observatory across from Queensway Secondary School.

Actually, today I had a real purpose for visiting my spiders compared with my usual reason of just doing it. Last week I met Prof Li Daiqin at the National University of Singapore. He is a serious spider guy - and is quite interested in behavior of jumping spiders and spider silk. Some of the jumping spiders respond to UV light and in the dark, you can observe mating behavior via UV illumination. Daiqin amplified by curiosity and helped focus it on spider behavior. He shared with me his understanding of Argyrodes, the little kleptoparasite. So today I thought I would look to see if I could identify their klepto behavior: theft or web eating. I was not disappointed.

Here is my camera setup. The Argiope versicolor is rather shy and all I have to do is look funny and she either runs up the web to hide behind a leaf or drops to the grass to hide. This provides some size scale perspective. You can clearly see a small spider near the bottom and a zig-zag pattern a little below and to the left. Our Argyrodes flavescens, the kleptoparasite, is further down and to the left - too small to be seen here.

may 05 0923 argiope web setup

Here she is - and at first I thought the white object was an insect but later, I thought perhaps it was an egg sac. Daiqin also thinks that this appears to be an egg sac, though it could also be wrapped prey. Below we'll see that tomorrow (Sunday) I was able to see into the opening and found it to contain a small spider - so not an egg sac. The zig-zag pattern to the lower left is called a cruciform stabilimentum, a sort of web ornament. The purpose of these decorations is not known.

may 05 0919 argiope web

If you touch the web - off she goes - either up or down - leaving an empty web. I have read that with a 100 Hz tuning fork, you can test the spider's response to high frequency vibration. So a tuning fork in on my to-buy list.

may 05 7696 hiding

Here she is hiding in the grass - from above

may 05 0930 argiope hiding

and looking horizontally at her through the undergrowth.

may 05 0938 argiope hiding

I gently plucked her web and this time she climbed up a strand of silk to her hiding place behind a leaf (poorly focused)

may 05 0957 argiope hiding above

At first I was uncertain as to what she was doing here - eating? or making an egg sac? or wrapping a prey? or what.

may 05 0946 argiope eating

Another view

may 05 7693 argiope eating

Oops - gone again

may 05 7698 web argiope hiding

and here she returns. You can click to watch her manipulate the sac.

may 05 7702 web argiope returned

picking up her maybe silk sac and continuing to do whatever female Argiope versicolor does with a sac or whatever

. may 05 7708 eating

and doing her sac thing (actually contains a small spider)

may 05 7724 argiope eating side

May 6, 2006: What has changed over the past 24 hours

The Argiope rebuilt her web overnight and added an upper right part of the cross (or X).

Here is her web with her


Here is her web without her. Noice the silk sac with a brownish object inside.

Argiope web

She disappeard and the sac was left oriented so that its possible to peak inside


And this is not an egg sac - but contains a small spider

prey sac

Meanwhile - back to Saturday, May 5, 2006: The best surprise what that there were several Argyrodes in her web

may 05 7752 female argyrodes


may 05 7763 argyrodes

and another

may 05 7766 argyrodes

Leaving her, I found a Nephila complete with kleptoparasites everywhere

may 05 7774 nephila

From the side - you can see little orange regions - these are the small Argyrodes

may 05 7798 nephila argyrodes

Near the center is some debris and a little Argyrodes above

may 05 7800 argyrodes debris

Several in fact

may 05 7802 argyrodes in nephila web

This is quite interesting. I think she is eating a segment of the Nephila web but look below her - where there is an insect suspended from the web. She will work her way around the hole - eating these little tasty treats and then when she is near the insect - will steal it.

may 05 7809 argyrodes eating

A closer view

may 05 7804 argyrodes web eating

She works her way around this hole, which I assume she created

may 05 7809 argyrodes eating close

And here, I caught her stealing an insect

may 05 7821 argyrodes stealing

Note the golden color of the Nephila silk

may 05 7821 stealing

Here is the best image of the little insect she is stealing

may 05 7838 stealing

Backing up a bit - here is the mom Nephila. Look at the slack drag line - first time I have seen this. Typically it is tight - not loose

may 05 7842 nephila argyrodes

Another surprise - I think this is a male Argyrodes. Look at the bulges in his palpi - used to inject sperm into his female friend

may 05 7935 male argyrodes

Another view

may 05 7940 male argyrodes

Then I think I found an infant Nephila Though the web is horizontal, I think this is the real thing

may 05 7953 infant nephila


may 05 7943 infant nephila

And of course, Argyrodes everywhere

may 05 7962 argyrodes


may 05 7967 argyrodes

And this little guy was walking around a nearby leaf

may 05 7996 ant

As well as a small assassin bug

may 05 8000 assassin bug


may 05 8009 assassin bug

Then back to the food court - a tall lime juice and someone was having a birthday party

may 05 0902 birthday

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C. Frank Starmer