A Spider Named Charlotte

WARNING: if you are arachnophobic - afraid of spiders - click away now. There are close-up photos in this post. I don't want to be responsible for your nightmares. Seriously. 

One thing I dislike about Oklahoma is the plethora of bugs. Big bugs. Beetles, wasps, cicadas, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, horse flies and more ... we have a huge variety of huge bugs.

Another thing we have a wide variety of is spiders. I don't have a phobia about spiders, but they're not my favorite creature either - scorpions and snakes are much higher up on my Most Awful List. However one of the biggest spiders is a critter that I like: the garden spider, or Argiope aurantia.

This spider is supposed to be the kind that Charlotte of Charlotte's Web is based on. I loved that book by E. B. White as a child. Charlotte wrote words in her web, messages that kept her pal Wilbur the pig from going to the butcher.

I've always called this zigzag part of the web a "zipper", but it does have a scientific name, stabilimentum. You can imagine that this is how Charlotte wrote the words in her web, can't you? (Notice how svelte she looks in this photo compared to later ones below.)

We have these spiders on Oak Hill every summer; some years there are many and other years I only see a couple. This year there are several; I found a smaller one on a web in one of the tomato plants the other day. There is usually at least one in the rafters of the horse barn. This year there is a big one on the side of my horse trailer, and that is who this post is about.

Her name of course is Charlotte. This particular spider is a large one, which means she's a "she". I've watched her wrap grasshoppers in her web, "bounce" her web to entangle a flying bug, and repair her web nearly every day. Although a friend of mine says she has petted a few of these, I've not had the urge to try that, but I do look at Charlotte as a bit of a pet. I check on her daily and watch her for a few minutes.

(Cell phone photo)

One day Charlotte was on top of her web; usually these spiders hang out underneath and I'd never actually seen the top of one before. I was a bit surprised at her appearance and that she looked so much wider than I'd expected. I finally realized that it must be nearly time for her to make her egg sac. When I saw her the next day, back underneath her web, she still looked wider than usual, so I was sure I was right.

And then one morning, there was her egg sac firmly attached to the trailer. This was the first time I'd been able to look at one so closely. It's large, but Charlotte is a big spider. I've measured her: three inches from toe to toe.

In the book, the original Charlotte's life ended soon after she produced her sac of eggs. Last evening, our Charlotte was missing from her web as well. 

I do wish that Charlotte had stashed her eggs safely in a better spot. Now I feel as though I can't move my trailer.

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  1. Beautiful! We get these a lot in our garden on the tomatoes. Once years ago we had one in our window. The kids were fascinated with her- watching her spin and re-spin after the rain. The egg sack. The other spider that came in and ate her and took over and laid another egg sack...

  2. Oh my goodness, Sarah! Now that would be shocking, to see another spider eat the original one and lay more eggs. Did you see it happen? One of the spiders in my horse barn had 3 egg sacs but now I'm wondering if there were three spiders?

    I have to admit that I miss Charlotte this morning; whoever thought I'd miss a spider?

  3. Wow - we don't have spiders like that here in Ireland - fortunately!

    Amazing photos though, and always loved the book Charlotte's Web

  4. Thank you, Janmary. Yes, we have big spiders here in the southern US, including tarantulas. Ugh.

  5. Its been 5 yrs since I moved back to suburban life, but they'll show up in gardens & on walls here too, sometimes.

    I love how their legs look like bare upper arms, with long, black gloves! They look like elegant ladies at a ball, dressed in their black silk evening gowns, wearing their finest gold accessories...

  6. I LOVE that analogy, Sassss! And you're right, that description fits them so very well. They are elegant spiders.

  7. Wow your Charlotte was amazing. I've not see any of these spiders but last summer I spent days photographing a spider that I found in my rose bed. It turned out to be a Cat-Faced Orb Weaver. They are fascinating to watch aren't they.

  8. I had to google your spider, Ida. I've never seen one before but yes, I can see the cat face. It's a very interesting-looking critter. I enjoyed the chance to photograph my Charlotte over a period of time and I'm sure you did too.

  9. Very cool! And I sorta giggled at your disclaimer, but I do know some that are deathly afraid of spiders.

  10. Thanks, Nancy. Yes, I've had friends over the years who were so afraid of spiders that one of them couldn't even sleep at night for thinking about the ones that must be in the walls!

  11. Thank you for beautiful pictures and a lovely story. I have fond memories of visiting spiders like this as a girl in the Louisiana woods.


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