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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Colorful visitor in my backyard

                           Mr. Spinybacked  Orbweaver built his home in our orange tree 
                           this winter.  He looks ferocious, but he is harmless, at least to 
                           us humans, insects, not so much.  This is his front side.  He 
                           has his own unique beauty.
  This is his good side, the back, and what I saw when I looked 
up into the orange tree where he had created his intricate web.  

    We in Florida are used to living with diverse creatures, lizards on the front porch, huge grasshoppers in the lawn and numerous spiders everywhere.  The one pictured was new to me, but I was able to find him online and discover that he is Gasteracantha cancriformis with common names, Spinybacked Orbweaver  and Crab Orbweaver Spider. I learned from another site  that the famous spider from the children's book Charlotte's Web is a barn orb-weaver spider.  Orbweavers come in many shapes and sizes.  Part of their name comes from the  flat, ornate, circular webs they create.  
     The visitor in my yard built an elaborate web high in an orange tree with one end attached to the eave of the house.  It looked very precarious swaying in the breeze.  We checked on him for several days and then after one very windy night, he was gone with only a remnant of  web remaining.  We were sorry to see him go, but then a few days later he was back with a new web higher in the tree, but sadly after a day or two that one blew away too.  We did read that this spider likes to hang out in orange groves.  How did he find our tree?  In my neighborhood of perhaps 100 houses, very few have citrus trees.  There is not another one on our block.
      Somehow Mr. Orbweaver traveled across many lawns and much foliage to the orange tree in my back yard.  Did the wind blow him there?  Did a bird drop him from the sky?  To me, it is a miracle that he was there.  Where is he now?  Did he catch a ride on the strong wind that blew away his web?  Spiders, insects, lizards, roaches are resilient and somewhat amazing.  They have a life completely unknown to us.  
      I know some people have a need to squash spiders and insects, Garfield the cartoon cat, for one, but their small, secret lives are awesome to some of us.


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