Monday, March 12, 2007

Octavia, The Sequel



I have wonderful news today. Octavia's egg sac has hatched, yielding dozens of plump spiderlings to carry on her legacy.

Regular readers already are quite familiar with Octavia, a golden silk spider whose daily life I documented after bringing her home from the local arboretum and setting her up in the orchid room. I'd fallen in love with the spiders during a newspaper assignment on the local establishment of Nephila clavipes, which aren't native to our area. I'd never seen a orb-weaver that large and wanted some at home to spider-spy on.

Before foolishly tinkering with my blog template, I had the Octavia Files linked on my sidebar. I'll have to go back and repost them so those of you who missed the spider saga can read them if you'd like. Even those who loathe spiders (Suspect) kept up with the daily doings of Octavia, who was Terribly Beautiful and a fierce warrior when it came to feeding.

Octavia lived the last half of her lifespan with me. She spun huge webs and allowed me to take close-up photos of her and even allowed me to touch her spindly bottle-brush legs. She kept the orchid room free of pests, sometimes capturing prey larger than herself. Her last meal was a locust that wounded her in an epic battle in which she ultimately prevailed.

The locust turned out to be her last meal. Whether she was just mortally wounded or the fight was too much for an aging warrior I don't know, but afterwards she slowed down. She died when I was away on a trip to Baltimore and I mourned for her. For some time it was difficult to look at her empty web without tearing up a bit.

My solace came in knowing she had left a legacy. A few weeks after arriving, I found a male while on a nature walk and put him in her web. He apparently suited her, because their mating led to the egg sac that has sat tucked on the back side of a leaf for through the long fall and winter months. Now the babies have emerged and huddle together, absorbing their yolks and waiting for the silent signal to feed.

We put out a small bowl of fruit in the orchid room. As the fruit ferments, it will attract fruit flies that hopefully land in the webs the tiny spiders are already building.

I'm not going to be overly optimistic. There are dangers in the orchid room. Carolina anoles patrol the rafters, ready to snatch anything that moves. I can only catch and release so many but even though I do they come right back in. There are other spiders there, too. We already caught one dining on a new baby. With so many spiders they will likely eat each other as well. Octavia herself wasn't above cannabilizing the competition when the mood struck her.

But even if a few live I'll be happy. It's been a mild winter and I expect the Nephila population in our area will be even greater this year and nature trails will be spanned by five-foot webs inhabited by Octavia's regal kind. And if I'm lucky, some of those Webs will be build here as well. If that happens, I'd like to think that Octavia will look down from wherever it is spiders go and be pleased with her legacy.

8 comments:

CJ said...

You are such an Ellie Mae. When you start feeding these things humans please don't post pictures.

Morgan said...

So I guess this doesn't mean I should invite the neighborhood kids over to feed them cookies. ;-)

Andrea said...

Wow...the circle of life and all that:) Cool pics, as always.

Morgan said...

Thanks, Andrea!

Roland said...

Instead of 'Charlotte's Web' the new kids best seller will be 'Octavia's Web'
Although they will have to eliminate the human 'sacrifices'. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of spiders but she is rather pretty. And so many little ones! If they all live they should keep the pest population down.
God Bless You,
Margaret

Morgan said...

Roland,
I think Octavia would have made a fine movie star. But had she had a choice I believe she would have preferred the horror genre. Or perhaps fantasy. She was, after all, the Arachnid Warrior Queen of the Greenhouse Realm.

Margaret,
I don't think all of the babies will survive, but I expect some of the ones who do will go outside and set up webs in the elm or between the pine trees. I hope some go to the stable. They'd be wicked good at killing horse flies.

Jana said...

I am hopping happy that Octavia's babies have hatched. I was thinking of you-- and Octavia -- and the babies when I was watching my bedroom spider (small black with red back marking, we call them jumping spiders) anyway, she survived the winter, and I call her Feroshi because she doesn't realize she's only 1/2" long and will ATTACK with agression whenever I get near her with the camera.
I'm sure Octavia is happy her babies were born in your orchid room, and I hope too you'll get to move some of them out to the barn to get those horseflies, them buggers BITE!!!!