The story appears to end on Oct 9.
Be sure to read through to Feb. 8
As the summer progresses I learn to make a point of catching a fly for Henrietta early in the day. If I wait until it is beastly hot outside, the flies get scarcer and I just get hot trying. I am still a woose when I hold a fly with the tweezers. I have to concentrate on holding steady when she rushes down to grab. I know she is harmless. I know I am an enormous monster in comparison, yet I still have to focus hard to keep from flinching. When it is over I step back and take a deep breath.
For several days most of my notes are about the challenge of catching flies and Henrietta taking her dear sweet time to come and get them. She isn’t as quick to grab as she was when she had a lot of growing to do. I’m beginning to think I have the biggest, fattest European garden spider in the neighborhood. Maybe Henrietta is getting tired of flies for dinner.
|Henrietta is hiding in the tangle of string -- too hard to really see The plastic bag has stinky fish goo.|
Aug 29, 2013: Flies are becoming scarcer I spend more and more time trying to feed Henrietta a fly a day. I am so tickled when she catches her own prey, usually the prey is a moth, caught during the night. But recently I notice she has eaten a yellow-jacket (hornet). She left the hard parts in a little ball, all wadded up and dropped beneath her web. I have a stroke of genius. I hang my plastic bag of fish goo just below where she spins her web. Yellow-jackets love the stinky goo. Now Henrietta generally catches one or more yellow-jackets a day – all by herself!
Henrietta hasn’t molted again. I think she is ready to lay eggs if a male would just come along. So far no such luck. Her new webs are not as pristine as when she was younger. Dare I say it? Her web is a little sloppy. I wonder if her heavy abdomen is clumsy. She certainly doesn’t look very athletic any more. Also she has fewer rays than when she was young and no longer makes as large a web as she used to.
Meanwhile we’ve had lots of company. Each guest is warned not to splat my spider on the deck.
Sept 13, 2013 I check Henrietta every day, usually twice a day or more. Life goes on, but I’m convinced I should have named her Elizabeth I, after The Virgin Queen of England 1533-1603. No sign of a male visiting, or of an egg sack.
Some days she just goes head first into her hidy-hole and doesn’t even seem to be interested in keeping a leg on the tension line of her web (which tells her if she has just caught something). But she does keep building new webs, not every day, but most days. And I know she still munches down a meal every so often. I’ve given up holding a fly into her web because she doesn’t respond -- very different from when she was young and lean and ever so eager. In the daytime she usually catches yellow-jackets, thanks to my bag of fish goo. Mornings I often see little hairs where a moth got caught during the night. I can only assume she eats those too.
We’ll be leaving soon on a trip. Will she still be there when we come back?
Oct 9, 2013 .... Home again. No sign of Henrietta, just a dangle of tattered web. I assume the end of my story is going to just be left dangling ……
Feb 8, 2014 ….. No! it is not the end of the story! I was working on my blog post today and went to www.bugguide.net to make sure I spelled Henrietta’s Latin name correctly – and there I found a photo of a European garden spider’s egg sack. In January I photographed one just like it! I hang a chunk of canvas on a post at the other end of her cloths line. Within its folds I found this bright yellow egg sack. I’d never seen one like this before and at the time didn’t even think of Henrietta. Now I’m hoping it is hers.
I wonder how many little Henrys and Henriettas will be on my deck next spring?