Sunday 14 September 2014

Motherly candy-striped spiders

I find maternal behaviour of spiders fascinating, and I keep an eye for it whenever the opportunity arises. When repotting my gingko bonsai on the 2nd of September, I noticed a couple of rolled leaves. They contained web shelters of Candy Striped Spiders Enoplognatha ovata/latimana. One of them had a female with her egg sac, the other already contained spiderlings (above). I checked today again, both females were guarding their spiderlings. The first one approached the entrance of her leaf to check what was causing the disturbance, the spiderlings clustering together like Araneus spiderling balls. The spiderlings have been in one of the nests for almost two weeks. Will the presence of their mother increase their chances of survival? will the mother feed during this time? In the related genus Theridion (Enoplognatha ovata was previoulsy called Theridion ovatum) the presence of the mother guarding the egg sac appears necessary for egg survival (although there were some loses due to parasitism from a tiny wasp). The mother not only sits near the egg sac, attached to her by a silk thread, but she is on the alert, and will move the egg sac to the centre of the web when predators are nearby. Unguarded egg sacs are rapidly predated by insects (ants, earwigs) and other spiders. And what about the spiderlings? what do they have to gain from their mother's care? In the Happy Face Spider, Theridion grallator, the female loosens the egg sac allowing the emergence of the spiderlings, and then captures prey for her brood. The spiderlings are under the female care up to three months, until they disperse and feed on their own. The female might produce another egg sac if the first one is lost, but she will die by the end of September early October. The spiderlings will disperse and overwinter near the ground.
One of the females, in close contact with her egg sac (2/9/14)

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