Sunday, June 28, 2009

Brownie cooks Christmas dinner

Brownie is a Steatoda bipunctata, a two-spotted cobweb spider. I've been housing her since last November in a big glass jar. (Previous posts: Mistaken identity, twice over, and To spin or not to spin, spider #4.)

Small sowbugs make up the bulk of her diet; fortunately, they're plentiful in this wet climate. But I try to introduce a bit of variety sometimes. I read somewhere that lab Steatodas raised on boring diets don't do too well.

Brownie and patterned sowbug.

Every so often, I empty Brownie's jar to get rid of the layer of dead carcasses at the bottom, then supply her with a few fresh sticks to tie the new web to. She doesn't appreciate this. She usually spends the next few days sulking in a corner, not moving, not eating.

So yesterday was cleaning day. This time, because she somehow manages to pull down the sticks and tie them together at the bottom, limiting her mobility, I gave her a framework of leftover pipe cleaners. I hope they will be more resilient. (That's to explain the "Christmas decorations" in the next photos.)

In the evening, I found a winged ant in the garden, and brought it in to Brownie as a peace offering. It was a big one, half Brownie's length again: interesting! She forgot her snit, and stalked the ant from a distance for a full day. Tonight she caught it. And it put up a fight.

The battle.

I saw them at it, the two of them hanging in the web, vibrating. The ant kept snapping at the air, trying to turn its head to get at the spider. But Brownie had sunk her fangs into the edge of the thorax, and hung on like a bulldog. Nothing would shake her off, and the ant couldn't twist far enough to reach her.

(Usually, she bites her prey, then backs off and starts to tie it up. Looks like she's smart enough to modify her procedure when the occasion calls for it.)

She held on, never leaving that position, for over 15 minutes, until the ant was just barely kicking. Then she wrapped it and hauled it up to her new dining room.

She's been busy eating ever since. And I think she's forgiven the impertinence of her housekeeping staff.



  1. How interesting. Lucky the ant didn't win! -- Margy

  2. For a bit there, I was worrying.

  3. Now that's a study in nature!

  4. Another interesting post. When I was a student, my roommate kept a wolf spider in a jar. The jar was located right by the bathroom door, so any visitors had to squeeze by this ferocious looking creature to reach the facilities. Can't say they all appreciated the adventure.

  5. Hee hee..Spider wins again..
    You are good spider mother..LOL


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