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The Argiope of Spider Ranch

    Please note: The following three pages contain photos, video clips, and some notes based on three summers of observing Argiope spiders in my gardens. All of the photos on these pages are linked to larger versions. Just click on any image to see a larger view.

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    For several years, the lion's share of the gardens at our farm have been devoted to the insects and spiders featured in many of my photographs. We can't really claim to have "managed" the gardens in some particular way -- it's probably more like we purposefully "didn't manage" and let the plants grow up as they liked. Our practice is to mow as little of the yards as possible and let everything grow wild. Our "footpaths" are the winding trails that snake through the gardens where we repeatedly walk. As much as possible, we avoid disturbing the foliage in these sections of the garden, which is why we try to create and stay on a few trodden down paths. The net result of the above is that the gardens now provide ideal habitat for a multitude of Argiope spiders -- the large, brilliantly marked garden spiders which strike terror into the heart of archnophobes. Over time, we came to refer to the wild parts of our garden as "Spider Ranch". Throughout August and September, the huge webs of Argiope, and the tripline webs of Araneus spiders crisscross through the tangled foliage, while butterflies, bumblebees, honeybees, hoverflies, caterpillars, mantids, grasshoppers and all manner of other insects fly, crawl or flit from plant to plant. This is a view of typical vegetation in the Spider Ranch section of the gardens as it looked in mid-September 2005.

    The vegetation of Spider Ranch consists of oldfield type plants -- predominantly Queen Anne's Lace, Evening Primrose, Red Clover, Alfalfa, Mullein, Cinquefoil, several species of goldenrod, asters and thistles, as well as the vines of Bur Cucumber. Spider Ranch is sheltered on all sides by bushes and trees which include Lilac, Highbush Cranberry, Black Walnut and Butternut, White Spruce, Paper birch, Sugar Maple, and Ash.

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    The Argiope of Spider Ranch belong to two species, both of which are commonly found throughout much of North America. These are the Yellow Garden Argiope (Argiope aurantia) pictured at the top of this page, and the Banded Argiope (Argiope trifasciata) pictured below.

    Continued on Page Two.