The Incompetent Arachnid & the Cunning Coleopteran

All I have to say about the title of this post is…Roget let me down yet again.

For the past couple of months I’ve been observing a female yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia; a type of orb weaver) just outside one of our garage windows. During that time, it’s grown from a half-inch “wingspan” juvenile into a three inch Stuff Of Nightmares, dining on a variety of hapless insects that become ensnared in its two feet wide circular web, which is anchored at the corners by some tall shrubs on the bottom, and the eave of our house at the top.

I check on it daily, mainly to reassure myself that if it’s still there, it’s not in our house. Did I mention my arachnid aversion? I confess a somewhat morbid fascination with its behavior, as I comfortably (in a physical sense; emotionally, it’s a different story) view it from the opposite side of the glass.

But last week, I saw something that made me drop my guard and rush outside to get a closer look. The spider was busily spinning something around with those Tim Burtonesque legs, and I immediately recognized it as Lady Shelob‘s next Meal Simple. The apparently imminent entrée was vaguely beetle-shaped, and as I looked closer, I realized to my horror that it was still alive and [literally] kicking.

So, of course, I had to video it…and you’ll never believe what happened next! (No, really!)

So much for the spider being the ultimate predator.

Of course, I had to chase some rabbits after viewing these spectacles. Here are some things you might not know about spiders and their webs:

  • Spiders can vary the thickness and stickiness of the silk they produce depending on its intended use. For example, the silk that the beetles were wrapped in is called “aciniform” while the outer rim and spokes of the web is comprised of silk called “ampullate” (and ampullate can have different compositions depending on whether it’s meant to be temporary during construction of the web, or permanent).
  • Aciniform silk is much tougher than other types, making the beetles’ escapes that much more impressive.
  • The Darwin’s bark spider’s silk is the toughest biologic material ever discovered; it’s ten times tougher on a weight-adjusted basis than Kevlar. (“Toughness” is a combination of a material’s strength and ductility — which, as we all know, is the measure of how much a material can be distorted [or stretched, in the case of spider silk] without breaking.) This explains why Kim Kardashian’s bras are made exclusively of spider silk.
  • OK, I made that last sentence up.
  • Spider silk is rich in vitamin K, which can aid in blood clotting, so the next time you, say, cut off a finger with your chain saw, just look for a spider web. (Not really. I mean, it might work, but there are probably other, more medically effective measures, starting with not cutting off any appendages.)


  1. The master writer! Roget’s Thesaurus, Lord of the Rings, and even The Kardashians are all referenced. Good Latin names, good research on spider’s webs, and even references to tensile strength. Okay all really well done.
    Now, you made no reference to the zigzag, almost alphabet looking webs that were above the prey. For just a moment I thought I was reading “Some Pig” in the webbing. But you didn’t take it that far.
    I wasn’t sure if you were rooting for the beetles or the spider. I admit I was disappointed that the spider wasn’t more aggressive. How about a nice venomous bite? How about laying eggs in the paralyzed carcass? You know, something really gross. But that would be fiction in this case, and Eric the naturalist was both patient and scientific in observing and documenting. Well done.
    Really well done including some detailed steady videography. Oh what a steady stream of nature and events at the Seigmund house!

  2. Loved your spider story. Great to be educated and amused at the same time.
    Your cinematography was wonderful also.🕸 🕸🕷🕷🕷🕷
    I give it four spiders (out of four).

  3. Bill, thanks for the kind words. By the way, I’ve actually blogged about that stabilimenta (the “zig zag” silk) here: And regarding your disappointment in not seeing any gross stuff…I do wonder if perhaps some of that might have taken place prior to the escapes. I don’t know how quickly the venom works, but I wondered if the beetles managed to break free, only to later succumb to spider-induced trauma.
    Thanks for dropping by, Roxanne. I do try to inject a little humor into my posts; as a former zoology major in college, I know how dry some scientific topics can get. 😉 Anyway, I appreciate your spider rating (although I personally use an ant rating, for obvious reasons).

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