Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Last night I was fortunate to witness a mating ritual between two consenting spiders.

As you certainly realize, most male spiders risk their lives every time they want to engage in a bout of fornication. (Much like with humans. Hardy har har.) Male spiders, almost always much smaller than their female rutting partners, stand a good chance of becoming post-coitus dinner.

The species of spider you are looking at in these photos is Kukulcania arizonensis. However, we'll just call them net web spiders. The male is brown with a half inch body. The female is that big ol' velvety black spider. She has a body about one inch long.

Different species of male spiders do different things when approaching females. What they all share in common is that a male must approach a female very tentatively and gently so the female doesn't mistake him for just any typical snack.

In the case of these net web spiders, here is what I saw:

The male stood above the female's web and gently touched the silk threads that radiated out along the wall. The female felt the vibrations and started to climb up out of her tunnel home. When just her head and front legs were visible, the male carefully touched her with his legs. No sudden movements. The female sensed that she was being courted and just sat there quietly. I suspect that there might be some pheromones involved here.

On the tips of spider legs are tiny claws. The male hooked his claws into her front claws and started to tug at her legs. Again, let me emphasize, he was holding the tips of her two front feet with only his claws. You can clearly see this in the second photo. It took him about a minute or so to tug her out of her tunnel and up onto the wall. She seemed to be completely passive during this process, letting the guy do all the work.

But the second she was up on the wall, she lunged at him and he ran quickly away. She climbed back down into her hole. I waited awhile but the luckless suitor didn't come back around.

(Be sure to enlarge the photos by clicking on them. Also, if you like spiders as much as I do, you will see that the male net web spider looks very similar to the fiddle-back spider. Verrrry interesting!

Oh, and I'm not going to write haikus anymore. Just nature photos and some info. Hope that's okay with the handful of you who read this blog.)

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