Thursday, August 14, 2014

Unequal match

The sad story of Fang, Part II

Recap: I found Fang in the kitchen, took his photo, and sent him to play outside.

Why I named him Fang. He's about 3 inches across, toe to toe.

These warm days, I do a "bug run" every day just outside my door, finding mostly spiders; house spiders, cross spiders, crab spiders, and the occasional wanderer, like Fang. (Usually much smaller, though.)

Cross spider in her web. 10 PM; these ones work night and day.

Yesterday evening, there was a new one, a pinhead-sized white spider. I had to set up the tripod to get a photo; the web was dancing with every tiny breeze, and there was no leeway for an additional shaking hand. I had to move a few plant pots to set up the tripod, and Fang came running out from under one of them. I shooed him off, away from where I would be standing.


I got my photo, and was heading back inside, carrying the camera still attached to the tripod, when I saw Fang on the wall, below the web of one of the fat web spiders I've been watching. He was facing the proprietress of the web; she was darting in towards him, then backing off in a hurry.

And his fangs were as long as her entire body! This was not going to end well.

In the few minutes that I took to re-position the tripod, the situation had changed. Fang was sitting quietly, while Ma G. (for Gordita) was poking at his legs.

He's still threatening her with those big fangs.

She'd found his weak spot; she went around and around him, systematically stinging the joints in his legs, where he has a flexible membrane, rather than the hard exoskeleton.

Spiders extend their legs using hydraulics, rather than muscles, as we do. To run, they increase the pressure in the cephalothorax (the head/upper body section), sending blood down the legs. Small muscles then return the liquid to the body, returning the legs to the relaxed position. So a shot of paralyzing poison to the legs soon invades the whole body.

Biting his knee. He's settling down, now.

Once he was still, she started to work on tying him up, starting at the legs, then running over and under the body, until he would be unable to move even if the poison stopped working. She paused, a couple of times, now that he was immobile, to sting the underside of his belly, another weak spot.

He has extruded what I presume is a blob of silk from the spinnerets, in his death throes.

Once that was done, she returned to her usual spot at the top of her web, and slowly winched him up until she could anchor him in her dining room. It was slow going; he was heavy and ungainly. It was getting dark, and I left before she'd finished.

I came back just before dawn to see what was going on. She was busy eating.

She's used a lot of silk, tying up those long legs. She'll eat it again, when she cuts him loose. Spiders recycle!


  1. In my younger days, I would run experiments between different species of spiders. One near certainty was that a spider on home turf would almost always win a spider vs spider battle. Spiders build webs suited specifically for their body type and size, and are rather clumsy around any other type of webbing. Surprisingly, large house spiders run the highest risk when they are on the prowl looking for mates. Under many cobwebs in and out of the house I will often find the corpse of a giant house spider.

  2. Guess in the spider world size doesn't necessarily matter. - Margy

  3. Tim, so a spider's web is almost like an extension of her body, rather than just a trap she makes. I'll have to start paying more attention to the interaction of the two.

  4. Wonderful series and wonderful information! It is amazing what one sees when one watches, isn't it. Thank you for a great post.


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