Spiders

Of all the creepy-crawlies, spiders might be the hardest to photograph. They’re small and the slightest breeze moves their webs. Autofocus pretty much refuses to recognize them.
Manual focus is tricky, too.
This preposterous creature is in fact a Spined Micrathena. The spiny adomen may deter predators; the un-spider-like shape may do something similar. To the naked eye, I first wondered if this was a moth stuck in a web.
I’ve been poking about the common milkweed. It’s a good place to build a web, what with all the creatures that hang around that plant.
Underneath a leaf, a very small one lurks in anticipation. That white dot below her?
A Monarch egg. I’d just seen the butterfly deposit this.
A “Trashline Orbweaver” of the genus Cyclosa. How descriptive. I spotted two of these in a patch of buddleia (pollinator crack).
And there, lurking in the center — do you see the death’s head? — she waits for some unwary prey to ensticken to the web. From the invaluable (and not inexpensive) Tracks and Signs of Insects & Other Invertebrates by Eisenman and Charney,

“The trashline orbweavers (Cyclosa) […] also make vertical stabilimentum, but not a zigzag. They usually decorate it with prey remains, their own shed skins, other debris, and eventually their egg sacs. The spider is well camouflaged resting in the middle of the this ‘trashline,” and it has been demonstrated that decorated webs trap significantly more insects than do undecorated webs.”
***

FYI: Margaret B. Gargiullo has passed. She was a botanist/plant ecologist who was a big influence on the community of native plant enthusiasts here. Among other things, she was model of a second career person: she began her professional life as a nurse. Her books, including a field guide to the plants of Costa Rica, were published when she was in her sixties. Her Guide to the Native Plants of the New City Region is a must. Her An Ecological Manual of NYC Plants in Natural Areas can be read on-line.

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