the good mother

A couple of evenings ago, while out for our after dinner walk, Don pointed to a spot where the meadow grass was trodden down into an arc going off from the main path. He began to ask what could have made the new track. I smiled and said that it was me. It was the short path that I’ve been following every few days as I stop to visit the unusually marked Misumena Vatia flower crab spider that I found guarding its egg case on June 29th. As of last night, she was still on guard, so that has been about 19 days of vigil thus far. The above photo is how she looked when I photographed her last evening, and below is the shot that I posted on June 30th. As you can see, she, the milkweed leaf, and the webbing, are all looking a little baked — no doubt the effects of being roasted in the bright sun for the better part of a month. The milkweed is one of the smaller plants that isn’t developing pods. As the summer wears on, the smaller plants usually turn yellow and begin to look a little wilted, which is just what’s happening to this one. Despite all the sun and heat, the spider is actually looking pretty good and still very alert. When you move near, she’ll quickly turn around and wave her front pairs of legs in a menacing way. I had thought she might be a little more desiccated by now — she is a little, but not nearly as much as others I’ve seen. I’ll keep visiting every couple of days to see how long she’ll maintain vigil over her egg case. Stay tuned for a further update.

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8 Responses to “the good mother”

  1. andrew Says:

    wow! great photos!

  2. Cathy Says:

    So – once she’s laid her eggs – she literally doesn’t move from the spot – not to feed or drink? Now that is maternal devotion.

  3. bev Says:

    andrew – Thanks!

    Cathy – I’ve seen many of these spiders guarding eggs, but I’ve yet to see one with prey, so I think they must no bother hunting during this time. They seem quite dedicated.

  4. robin andrea Says:

    That attentiveness is quite impressive. I don’t know how they manage to hang on for so long in such heat, but such tenacity seems very praiseworthy.

  5. Wayne Says:

    That Misumena continues to be one of the most striking of spiders. She really does look like she’s shriveling up though.

    It’s neat that you’re able to continue to observe her for what must now be over three weeks. I’m guessing she’ll probably die after the eggs hatch, but now we’ll know for sure!

  6. bev Says:

    robin – I guess the thing that impresses me most about these spiders is that they are driven to protect the next generation in a way that we barely acknowledge as possible in invertebrates. These flower crab spiders are one of the best examples I can think of to blow that myth.

    Wayne – She is a beautiful spider, but is getting slightly desiccated though. I suspect that, by now, it must be more than 3 weeks, as I can’t even be sure of what day she began her guarding behaviour. I may have stumbled upon her when she had already been “on duty” for several days. I’ll keep visiting to see what happens. By the way, in some of the other crab spider species, I’ve noticed that the females actually seal themselves inside of the leaf with webbing (I’ve opened a couple of these bent leaves to see what is inside and have found crab spiders with their egg cases tightly sealed inside). I’m not sure how they fare as time passes, but I wonder if they die inside the leaf and perhaps even provide sustenance for the freshly hatched spiderlings? Some time, I shall have to try to follow up on a couple of these sealed cases to see what happens.

  7. Wayne Says:

    Oh Bev, the children eating the mother. This isn’t good public relations stuff.

  8. bev Says:

    Ha! (-: