Saturday, February 15, 2014

Henrietta: Part II

Henrietta's hidy-hole -- just a scrap of string.  She is finishing off a fly in this photo.

This is a continuation of my last post

When I return at 2 PM all is just as we left: a perfect web, Henrietta waits in the center, and no sign of her having caught any prey. 

It a cool, dreary day.  Not a good one for little bugs to be flying about.  I read up on spiders a little and find that the center platform is not sticky and that a little space between the center platform and the rest of the web is usual.  Some species of spiders spin a new web every day.  Some like to build in the early morning, and some in the evening. Spider silk is made of protein and far stronger than steel of the same size.  It was used for the cross hairs in gun sights in World War II and for many years afterwards.  Many species of spiders can build a web in an hour ... but often an orb has 12 - 20 rays whereas Henrietta’s has about 40. 

6 PM:  I can’t resist.  My little friend doesn’t appear to have had anything to eat.  I know my compost pile has fruit flies so I go catch one.  I try to carefully place just the fly in the web, but get my finger caught in the process.  At first she runs away from this monster in her web, but as soon as I unstick myself, she hurries over to the little fruit fly.  Wow!  I think she uses 4 hind legs as she blasts a sheet of silk from her spinnerets, not just one thread.  She rolls the fly over and over into a silky bundle, then bites. It is my understanding is she’ll inject a digestive solution into the fly and soon will be able to suck out the contents.

Ms. Spider takes her bundle to the center of her web. 

Tuesday, June 25: Even though her web could have been easily repaired, Henrietta begins a new web about 8 AM.  Maybe the coolness of the morning caused a late start.  I think she saved the outer rim, but all new spokes and new circles of silk.

Wednesday -- oops!  I can’t remember if she rebuilt or not.

Thursday:  Holes in her web, but she didn’t bother to rebuild.  I fed her late in the day.
Friday:  No sign of a web this morning.  It is all cleaned up.  She is hiding in the cluster of string that hangs near her web site. 

Saturday:  Still no new web and she is still in hiding.  Does she need to molt?  Lay eggs?  .... or just baffle me. 
Tuesday July 2, 2013:  Henrietta has been hiding in the string since Friday.  I’ve checked her a couple of times of day .... wondered if she had died, been parasitized by a wasp ???  Tonight she has finally emerged, i.e. moved about two inches and is just hanging there with her legs spread.  She looks bigger to me.  Yes!  Those legs are definitely longer.  All this waiting has been because it was time for her to shed.  Spiders have an exoskeleton rather than bones.  In order to grow they shed their old exoskeleton, revealing a new, tender one underneath.  Her medley of creams and browns look fresh and bright. 

July 4, 2013:  Ms. Spider had a new web all ready when I check about 8 AM.  It is smaller than last week’s webs -- maybe she needs a few good dinners before she can build a bigger one.  So, of course, I feed her.  The ironic thing is that when I want a fly, they are the hardest dang things to find.  My yard has a wonderful variety of ichneumon wasps, mason bees, honey bees, sweat bees and itty bitty flies that I can’t get a grip on.  I’ve been swinging my net and coming up with everything but what I want.  Finally I get a fly.  It is hard to offer her a fly without getting myself stuck, so I use tweezers. 


  1. Oh my word. I was mesmerized reading this and I hate spiders. I feed birds and you feed spiders. Love it!! Wonderful sketch by the way.

  2. Your post was exceptionally great! I love spiders and like all the care you took in watching and recording the spiders activities. Thanks for sharing.

  3. You and only you could make spiders so appealing! Loved reading about the adventures of Ms. Henrietta. While I don't hate spiders nor dislike them, I don't trust them either and tend to give them plenty of space.

    1. They give me the creepies too, which is part of their fascination.

  4. What a lucky spider to have been befriended by you! What happens to the shed exoskeleton? Does she consume it like the used web? Great post!

    1. I looked for the exoskeleton but couldn't find it. It is so light it could easily blown away. I have found the exoskeleton of other species of spiders.