Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Argiopes, at last!

When we moved to Barrie six years ago, I recall seeing my first black and yellow argiope on the side of my house and was amazed at its size and spectacular colour and markings.  I didn't know what it was at first, but with a bit of googling, I was able to figure it out quite quickly.   That was the summer of 2005.  Since then, whenever out on a nature walk, working in my garden or frog hunting with my kids, I always hoped to come across another one of these beauties.  No such luck.  Not until 2009, when I finally found my next argiope, which was a banded argiope.  This spider is also very impressive, with wonderful markings and colours... even on its legs!  

Banded Argiope with prey.  Note the legs are held in four neat pairs and it sits with its head down in the web. 

Two years go by until my next finds.  Luckily, I found these spiders within days of each other... something I am not quite used to!  The first argiope was a black and yellow argiope and was spotted by my friend John while we were walking the trails at Tiny March, outside of Elmsdale, Ontario.

Black and Yellow Argiope.  Such spectacular markings and fantastic colour.  This spider was about 2 inches including leg span.  The thick, white, zigzag stabilimenta can be seen here running through the centre of the photo. 

It was found hanging out in its web, head down, holding its eight legs in four neat pairs. This is typically how these spiders sit in their webs.  Thankfully, it didn't budge while we took turns photographing it.  Not only is it difficult to get a good shot of a moving spider, but it's also a but unnerving!  The second argiope I found next to a soccer field near my house.  This one was a banded argiope and was found with its web quite low in the goldenrod.  It too, sat motionless on its web, head down, with its legs held in four neat pairs. 

Banded Argiope with dinner. 

Juicy Tidbits

  • The black and yellow argiope can also be called a black and yellow garden spider, a writing spider or a corn spider. 

  • They are a good sized spider, with a body length ranging between 15 and 25 mm.

  • Argiopes have a thick zigzag weaved into their webs.  This is called a stabilimenta.  The function of the stabilimentum in webs is not exactly known.  Initially, it was believed that its function was to help stabilize the web.  This is not widely accepted anymore.  More popular theories are that stabilimentum serve to help camouflage the spider or that the thick, visible zigzag pattern helps to warn bigger unwanted guests that there is a web in their way.   The fewer times a spider has to rebuild its web the better!  For more info on some of the different theories, check out this link:  http://www.bugsinthenews.com/stabilimentum_and_some_notions_on%20function.htm

  • The latin name for the black and yellow argiope is Argiope aurantia

  • The latin name for the banded argiope is Argiope trifasciata

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Polyphemus Moth

While waiting for my son's soccer game to start, I usually walk the perimeter of the soccer field trying to find something interesting to shoot.  I often come across something worthwhile, whether it be some bees, snails, spiders or pretty flowers.  On one lucky day in the beginning of July, I fould the largest moth I had ever seen.  After some research, I discovered it was a Polyphemus Moth.

The Polyphemus Moth is one of the most widespread silkmoths and ranges from southern Canada southward throughout most of the lower 48 states.  It is a tan coloured moth with beautiful feathered antennae and has a wingspan averaging between 10 and 15 cm.  Now that's a lot of moth!  There is a small eyespot on the outside wing or forewing, which you can see in my photos.  On the hindwing near the middle there is a huge round or elliptical eyespot.  This moth didn't open up its wings for me, so I unfortunately do not have a shot of the impressive hindwing, but images of this can easily be found by googling this moth. 

I had spotted this moth resting on a tree trunk on the outskirts of a soccer field.  It was very patient and let me get very close to it without even moving.  I practically had my lens touching it at times and it never even budged.  Before moving in to get some macro shots, I took several pictures with my telephoto lens just in case the moth flew away with my approach.   Lucky for me it stayed!  Enjoy!!

A top down look at a Polyphemus Moth.  I was resting my camera on the tree for stability

Click the photo for a larger view!