You may not like spiders. You may have Arachnophobia, a fear of spiders, or maybe you just dislike all spiders.
But still, some spiders are spectacular. Stunning. Striking.
Take the redfemured spotted orbweaver, Neoscona domiciliorum. It's "endemic to the United States, southeast of a line joning Texas, Indiana and Massachusetts," according to Wikipedia. The species, domiciliorum, refers to the fact is it often found living on buildings.
Well, not this time.
We found it in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
There it was, dangling from its web, looking oh-so-pretty in the early morning light. Its color blended in with the Mexican sunflowers, Tithonia.
Later that afternoon, an alfalfa butterfly, considered a notorious pest, dangled there. And the redfemured spotted orbweaver was nowhere in sight.
It never returned to devour its prey.
Pity the poor honey bees.
They have to contend with pesticides, parasites, pests, diseases, malnutrition, stress and that mysterious malady called colony collapse disorder in which adult bees abandon the hive, leaving behind the queen, immature bees and food stores.
The primary pest of bees? The blood-sucking, virus-transmitting varroa mite, found in probably every hive in the country.
But there are other pests that target the honey bee as well--from praying mantids and dragonflies to birds and spiders.
It's a predator gauntlet out there to make the round trip from their hive to their foraging site and back.
We recently saw a honey bee trapped in a spider web stretched from a honeysuckle bush to a purple salvia. The bee's fatal mistake was taking a shortcut to the lavender patch.
The bee, incongruously bubble-wrapped by the spider for a future meal, twisted in the breeze.
It was not alone. A horde of freeloader flies, family Milichiidae, and probably genus Desmometopa, made sure of that.
It was a bad day for a honey bee but a good day for the spider and the flies.
Just another day for the predators and the prey. And a few square meals in the circle of life.
Oh, what serious webs they weave.
Perfect concentric circles. Perfect for snagging prey. Perfect for capturing a few photographic images.
Orb weavers take on the classic shape popularized by Charlotte the spider in E.B. White's children's book, Charlotte's Web.
They rid the garden of many flying insects, such as gnats, mosquitoes, and moths.
Occasionally a honey bee becomes entangled in the web. The orb weavers are not particular in what they kill, wrap, and eat. It's part of the fabric of life.
This orb weaver (below) is a western spotted orb weaver, Neoscona oaxacensis, as identified by senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis. Notice the round abdomen and the spots.
If you want to see some other garden spiders, check out the UC IPM website. Also, access BugGuide.Net, where scientists and citizen scientists have posted some great images of these amazing western spotted orb weavers.
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
When Paul McCartney of The Beatles wrote "Let It Be," released in 1970, he wasn't writing about honey bees.
No, he was actually recounting what his mother (who died when he was 14) told him in a dream. In real life, McCartney and his fellow musicians were clashing. In the dream, his mother soothed him: "It will be all right, just let it be."
But sometimes you just can't let it be.
We recently encountered an industrious honey bee nectaring catmint (Nepeta) in our yard. A gorgeous bee. Here she is buzzing from flower to flower, sipping nectar here, sipping nectar there, and then she makes a huge mistake: she buzzes right into the web of a cunning garden spider. As she struggles to free herself, the spider begins approaching her.
We captured the spider/honey bee scenario with our digital camera--four frames in one second--and then released her.
Not going to be a wrap today.
We let her "bee."