Thinking our spider may have decided to move to another location, I checked for a new web nearby. Again, this search was in vain.Perhaps he or she likes frequently changing location, treating houses like one those comfy and convenient cheap hotels you come across when traveling. Methinks this arachnid is no more. These searches were repeated at various times on July 31st and August 1st, and were fruitless.
If no more, our spider may have met its fate at the beak of the mockingbird who patrols this area, or at the mouth of one of the three species of lizard I've seen here. Possibly, the decision not to invest as much silk in the stabilimentum this last time was a fatal one, as its thin structure would not have camouflaged her form as well as the earlier ones. In any case, such is life in the jungle. This spider probably knew, from the perspective of a consummate predator, that some day the predator might become another organism's prey.
From a visitor on December 22, 2003:
"I have had a number of argiopes, all beautiful and gentle like this one. All of mine lived to complete her life cycle catching bugs and making egg sacs. When the egg sacs go up, I knew each Charlotte's (I named them all Charlotte 1 through n) days were numbered. Only one had a mysterious disappearance. I looked around and found her covered with ants. I hope she died of old age or something before falling into the hands of the ants. Most people think I am nuts to like argiopes. Some I have transplanted to places where I can observe them, monitor their web building and bug catching and watch them complete their life cycles. You may think I am nuts too, but I am in awe of these gentle, beautiful creatures. I think that the great God who made them and knows when each sparrow falls knows when each Charlotte has fulfilled the great purposes for which each was born and knows when they fell to. Merry Christmas and God bless you."
|The photo on the left
is of the stabilimentum of our spider's web as of late afternoon on July 31,
2001. If you compare it with the stabilimentum constructed on July 30th
(shown below), you will notice that they are identical. And if you have been
following this series from the beginning you will immediately sense that
something is wrong. True. Our spider has disappeared.
Late in the afternoon on the 30th I checked the web, expecting to find the spider there. The stabilimentum was bare. In the past, when it saw me coming, the spider would scamper down to a hiding spot in the vegetation below, but even there the spider was not hard to find. It would never disappear completely from sight, but would curl up in a crumpled mass, playing dead. This time, however, the spider was not as the base of the web, either. Notice that the stabilimentum has not been damaged, but that a leaf has become imbedded in the web below it. This leaf was also in the web on the 30th.
Females of our spider's species live but a season under the best of circumstances. Consequently, this one had only about 10-12 weeks of life left anyway. Sometime in late September or early October, it would have constructed a silken cocoon for a clutch of eggs. After filling the cocoon with that treasure, it would have sealed it up and attached it to a firm object. Not long thereafter it would have ceased web building. After all, its object in life--to propagate the species--had been achieved. Its appetite for food would be lost, and the spider would grow progressively weaker until, finally, death would come.
We were able to share in this spider's life for six days. It was, at least for me, a worthwhile experience. Hopefully, it was for you as well.
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