SPIDERS page 2--Nephila Clavipes (Golden Silk Spider)
This page was born 11/23/2002.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update: 5/17/2012
Images and contents on this page copyright 2002-2012 Richard M. Dashnau

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  Spiders page 4 (Jumping Spiders)
  Spiders page 5 (Orb Weavers)
  Spiders Page 6(fishing spiders)

  Spiders Page 7(spitting spiders)

Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Introduction                Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Snakes-nonvenomous 1-------------------------------------------    Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Snakes-nonvenomous 2-------------------------------------------------Insects, non-toxic
Snakes-nonvenomous 3------------------------------------------------Spiders
Snakes-venomous------------------------------------------------------Mammals
Birds-Waders----Birds-Raptors---------------------------------   Lizards!--Turtles!
This is my second page of information about spiders. Since I've looked at this species so often, I've decided to put all of my information on Golden Silk Spiders in one area. These spiders make excellent photo subjects for a number of reasons. One is that they are so large, that many external details are easy to see. Another is that they are quite docile, and will not run off when approached, and sit well for photos. I think the Nephila clavipes are beautiful spiders, and have been fortunate to be able to see so many. These spiders do not favor a large variety of habitats, and don't exist in most other areas of the United States.

By the way,  I recommend a book I've bought to anyone who is interested in spiders. The title is: Biology of Spiders, by Rainer F. Foelix, published in 1996. 

September 5, 2010 I was walking down the Spillway Trail with a friend I met at the park. I'd stopped to look at some Golden Silk Spiders. While I looked at them, my friend looked elsewhere. Then she pointed and said, "Look at that big one!"
I looked, and it was a big female--but she was REALLY big. Distended. Then my friend said, "I think she has something." I picked up my binoculars, and looked. And looked again. And a third time. I saw something green, with two large black eyes. It was a FROG! The spider was still eating it, and it appeared to be working just behind the head. Beyond that, there was just the vertebral column. The rest of the frog's body was already gone. While I crouched to get a close picture, I bumped a log, which bumped the web. This scared her off the frog. I was disappointed, but it was still a good photo opportunity.
While we watched, this hugely distended female suddenly ran to the edge of her web, and grabbed something else! When she brought it to the center of the web, I saw that it was a horsefly. She wrapped it, which I filmed a bit, and then-to my surprise-she began eating! I've read about what these large spiders can catch with their webs. I've read that birds might sometimes be caught. I've seen large insects ensnared. I suppose that anything that the spider can overpower, and then render into drinkable slurry with its digestive juices, is is potential food. But, I'd never considered that frogs could be on the list. I can't imagine how it got caught in the web. The three images below show the pieces of this story. The last image is a frame from the video clip  (2.5MB wmv)  For those who work at the park, here's something else to capture the interest of our park visitors!

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                HARD TO BELIEVE A SPIDER DID THIS                           THE FROG AND THE CULPRIT                             AND NOW SHE WANTS DESSERT
                                                                                                                                                 video clip  (2.5MB wmv)
August 13 and years before.
  While we are walking the trails of Brazos Bend State park, we can see the large webs made by the Golden Silk Spiders (Nephila Clavipes). Centered in the webs are the large females. Through most of the summer, if we look a bit closer at the webs, we will find spiders that are quite a bit smaller than the large females--which can have a leg span of about 4 inches. These smaller spiders still have the same general shape and proportions of the large females, but usually lack the large tufts of hairs on the legs. These smaller spiders are male N. Clavipes. One or more may appear on the web, and they are usually positioned above the female, and often on the opposite face of the web. Sometimes they approach the female if she has food, and sometimes they approach the female if she doesn't have food--perhaps for "romantic" purposes.

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But, if we look even closer, we might see small silvery specks in the web. Sometimes the look almost like isolated dewdrops hanging there; silvery dewdrops glistening in the light. Silvery dewdrops with legs.... Legs!? Wait a minute.... Those are SPIDERS!

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These tinier spiders are sometimes called "Dewdrop Spiders", but are more precisely known as Argyrodes (ahr-jee-RODE-eez).  They live on the habitat provided by the large web made by the female Nephila. When the female captures prey, the Argyrodes sneak in and grab some of it. Since, in a way, the large Nephila's home acts as a "host" for the Argyrodes--and they steal food--Aryrodes are called "kleptoparasites".  I've caught some of this activity on video a few years ago, An edited clip of this can be seen here (wmv 8.5 mb)

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----------                                                                                                                                                      Video Clip of Argyrodes (wmv. 8.5 mb)
 According to one study, Argyrodes might also sometimes prey upon "surplus" male Nephila that are living on the web (The Life Cycle, Habitat and Variation in Selected Web Parameters in the Spider, Nephila Clavipes Koch (Araneidae)Clovis W.Moore American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 98, Issue 1 (Jul.,1977), 95-108  (page 100)) Argyrodes are grouped in the family of spiders called "theriididae", or cobweb spiders. This family has many members (over 2000), including the Black Widow spider, and Common House spider.

June 20, 2004 Also, the Nephila Clavipes (the Golden Silk Spiders) population has exploded. They are visible everywhere. Most of them are similar in size, but those few that I'd seen on the trails before must have hatched early.
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                                     NEW NEPHILA, 2004                                              NEW NEPHILA CLOSEUP
 These are much larger, and almost full grown. The picture above (NEW NEPHILA 2004) is a frame from a short video clip (388kb) of one of these large females on my hand. The other picture (NEW NEPHILA CLOSEUP) is a frame from another short video clip (535kb) showing a closer view the same female.

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                                                                          YOUNG NEPHILA CLAVIPES
May 16, 2004 The picture above (YOUNG NEPHILA) shows something I've been watching for for the last few weeks. That is the hatching of the Golden Silk Spiders, (Nephila Clavipes). I've been checking the Spillway Trail since the beginning of May, but I haven't seen a large number of young Nephilas anywhere. The image shows my index finger near one of these young spiders, although at this size, it's evident that it hatched some time ago. It's still a lot smaller than the adult spiders, though.

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                                     BIG TROUBLE                          LEG SECTIONS
July 06, 2003  Have you guessed what the image BIG TROUBLE (above) shows? Well, when I said "too close" in the caption, I meant that if you can see something this without any optical enhancement, then you're in BIG TROUBLE.  This is a macro photo of the end of the leg of a Golden Silk spider, grasping one strand of its web (see BIG TROUBLE, above). At this distance, you'd have to be stuck in a web--this is a sort of "prey's-eye" view of your approaching dinner guest; with dinner, of course, being YOU.
Since last year, I've taken a lot of these--but haven't quite been successful.  I finally bought a macro slide for my camera, and this gives me much more control. However, the wind still moves the web just as I'm about to take a picture. I'm still working on it. For now, these will do. I've been waiting for the Nephilas to hatch and get large enough.
Why don't spiders get stuck on their own web when they walk on it?
Spiders have 8 "walking legs". These each have 7 segments. The picture above (BIG TROUBLE) shows the last of these segments, the tarsus. (in order from the outer end, the segments are: tarsus, metatarsus, tibia, patella, femur, trochanter, and coxa; click on the LEG SECTIONS image above to see 640 x 480 image). All spiders have claws (two or three) at the end of the outermost segment (see CLAWS FROM THE SIDE, below). The Nephila Clavipes (and other spiders who hunt by using a hanging web), uses an interesting method to walk on its web. The two "main claws" (which have serrations on them) are not used for this at all (see CLAW FROM UNDER). Instead, there is a smaller, smooth claw between these two larger hooks. Look closely at the first two pictures, and the RICKUBISCAM, and you'll see that the large claws are not holding the web at all.

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       CLAW FROM THE SIDE                             CLAW FROM UNDER                               THE LEG MODEL                                 HER LEGS, CLOSER                          LET'S SHAKE...HANDS
This claw can fold in and back out. There are also two stiff hairs alongside this claw. The spider, when it wants to grasp its web, puts the web between the folding claw and the two hairs, so the hairs are on one side of the web, and the claw is on the other. The claw then folds in, and presses the strand of web against the two hairs. This pressure slightly bends the web across the hairs, and allows the spider to hold onto it. To release, the spider relaxes the muscles which pull the hook, and the web springs back out. The next time you see a spider walking its web, note how only the very tips of its legs touch the web (see LEG MODEL, and CLOSER, above).  These second two are pictures of the female that I photographed. At one point, the wind blew her web into my macro slide, and she wasn't very happy about it. She ran over and seemed to be trying to push it out of her web. After taking the macro pictures, I decided to "shake hands" with her (see SHAKE HANDS, above). This video clip  (flv video, 359 kb) shows how she reacts to my finger. Notice how she tests my fingers with her legs. Spiders have sensory "hairs" on their legs, and on various parts of their bodies. Some of these hairs can sense motion in the air, some of these are used to "taste". I am reluctant to bother animals in the park, and felt that leaving her in contact with her web would be a more pleasant interaction. See how calm she is? See how big she is, compared to my right hand?
As I've noted before, I've used: The Biology of Spiders, by Rainer F. Foelix, published in 1996, as a reference.

May 11, 2003  Yes, folks--the Golden Silk Spiders have returned. Previous visitors to these pages may recall their appearances here. If you can't remember, go vtake a look at the top of this page to refresh your memory. They are also known locally as "banana spiders"--but are NOT the highly poisonous "banana spider" which is known elsewhere (that's the Brazilian Wandering Spider--phoneutria fera.) I've been watching to see if I could see these come out of their egg sacs (according to a paper I've read, they actually hatch in the fall, and live in the egg sac through the winter), but I hadn't had a chance to visit their area. I did this today. There were large clumps of webbing here and there (these ranged in size from about 1 foot to 3 feet across-spreading across branches and leaves.). This almost appeared like tent caterpillar webbing, but closer inspection revealed small (some were TINY) spiders within (see WEB CLUMPS, below. This image links to a LARGE 800 x 600 jpg.) I saw a few spiders were already about an inch long, though.  Some were quite small, and I suspect the males and females are close to the same size at this time. (see TINIER ONE, below) The image below (NEW NEPHILA) shows my the tip of my finger pointing at one of these spiders. The view is from the bottom of the spider. Quite a bit different from the picture on the other pages with my hand, right? The third images shows one of the bigger ones (see ONE INCH, below), from the top of the spider. The rows of spots are there, as well as the hairy joints.  The fourth image (JUST A YOUNGSTER!, below) shows my index finger with another one.  No, I'll never learn. This image is a frame from a short video clip (333kb, flv video). Quite a size difference from thisvideo clip(473 kb) of an adult one in my hand!
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                  WEB CLUMPS                                     NEW NEPHILA                                         TINIER ONE                                    ONE INCH LONG                           JUST A YOUNGSTER!

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                                           EGGS, NO SPAM  
December 15, 2002 Those who have previously visited this page may recall the Golden Silk Spider (Nephila Clavipes). A a result of the cold weather and rain we've been having, it's possible that they are finally gone for the year.  However, thanks to some information loaned to the park by one of our visitors (Thanks, Brittany!) I have more information about these spiders than I'd seen before.  Because of this information, I became curious about the Nephila egg sacks. I decided to see if I could find any. The picture above (EGGS, NO SPAM) shows that I was successful. Actually, I went out looking and found them *last* week, but decided to look again today.

November  17, 2002 The pictures below once again features that fuzzy-jointed arachnid friend of mine, the Nephila clavipes. Over the last week, temperatures have dropped (not that you folks up North would be sympathetic to this) to the 30s in various parts of Texas. Here, we've experienced temperatures in the low 40's. Between this, the wind, and all the rain, the multitudinous orb webs belonging to the Golden Silk spiders (Nephila clavipes) have all but cleared out along the Spillway Trail. I found this one resting on a bunched strand of web ("bunched", in that it seemed to be made of several strands twisted together.)  Since this could likely be the last time I'd be seeing one, I decided to get a little closer than usual, and see if I could entice her to climb onto my hand.  I took two  short video clips of this Nephila slowly moving on the strand (part 1(486kb)  see STRANDWALK PART 1,below;  part 2(469kb) see STRANDWALK PART 2,below)  and then one short one (my hand(473kb) see RICK'S HAND, below.) of her stepping on and off my hand. She actually climbed on it after this, but I couldn't film it, since I was trying to make sure she a) didn't fall off, and b) didn't run to the nearest warm spot--like up my sleeve to my neck. She eventually tired of me, and slowly made her way up a tree and out of my reach. I'll mention here that there were *very* few webs visible, and aside from this large female, the other spiders (*maybe* 15 webs remained on the entire trail to the spillway) were about half this size.
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                STRANDWALK PART 1                                 STRANDWALK PART 2                               RICK'S HAND
Notice how she grabs the strands of web. Spiders that spin orb webs can walk on their webs--and not get stuck--by using an interesting adaptation to the ends of their walking legs. All spiders have claws at the ends of their walking legs--either two or three claws at the end (this can vary from species to species). However, the "web-walking" spiders do NOT use these claws for web-walking. Instead, they have specialized hairs at the end of their legs--three of them, and these are between the claws.  It is these specialized hairs that move around the web (with the web acting sort of like a piece of hair getting caught in the teeth of a comb), and "pinch" on the strand (source: Biology of Spiders-2nd edition, by Rainer F. Foelix.). I have been trying to get macro shots of this particular function ALL SUMMER; with limited success. What I've been able to capture will eventually end up here.

October  13, 2002 A cold front blew through today. The picture below (TIGHTROPE) shows one of our park spiders (those Golden Silk Spiders) sort of dumbfounded by the temperature drop. This spider had a large dragonfly in its web, but didn't eat much of it. As I was watching it crawled down a strand of web to a one of the anchor points, then turned around and returned to its orb.  It was apparently doing a little web repair.  Click here(flv video 477kb) to see a short video clip of its movements.  When it pauses, you can see it attach a strand of silk to the anchor thread and then begin walking.  Also notice how it grabs each strand with the very end of its legs as it moves.  As soon as I get a little time, I'll be putting some more information here about the interesting machinery that a spider has to work with. I won't have much more time to get pictures of them before they'll be gone for the cold season.
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------------------------------------------------          ---TIGHTROPE

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                     HOW BIG?                        IT DIDN'T CATCH MY NAME                              WITH A QUARTER                             DRAMATIC LIGHTING

July 21-20, 2002  I guess we're moving into our summer weather, although it hasn't broken 100 degrees F yet. The number of visitors to the park has lessened somewhat. Today, July 21(Sunday), I took a few more pictures of some of our Golden Silk Spiders. This picture shows a pretty big one (see HOW BIG?, above).  I took two more pictures of this one, with different objects to give a better idea of the size. (See CATCH MY NAME, and WITH A QUARTER above). These spiders are usually harmless to humans, but it still gave me some heebie-jeebies to look through the camera zoomed in as I moved my hand closer to the spider. I'll mention here that Ms. Kissane, in our early communication, pointed out the there is a very poisonous, and aggressive spider from South America also known as "Banana Spider", because it has turned up in shipments of bananas here in the U.S. Please don't start killing the spiders I've shown here under the impression that these "Banana Spiders" are the same. They aren't. 
Unlike insects, which they superficially resemble, spiders have 2 main body parts, cephalothorax, sometimes called the "prosoma" on spiders, and the abdomen, also called the "opisthosoma" on spiders.  The two main body parts are joined by a thin joint called the "pedicel" (Source for body part names: Biology of Spiders-2nd edition, by Rainer F. Foelix.)  Click the image below to see these parts labeled on a real spider, which happens to be a Nephila clavipes.

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July 7, 2002 I've noticed some visitors (and some websites) have shown some confusion regarding two large, conspicious spiders that can be seen at Brazos Bend State Park. s I mentioned, other things happened this weekend, and I'll be adding these when I have time. These are the Black and Yellow Argiope (aka Golden Orb Weaver) and the Golden Silk Spider (aka Banana Spider).  These two spiders are pictured below.  These are all pictures that I took at the park.
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               BLACK & YELLOW ARGIOPE                                      GOLDEN SILK SPIDER                                     BLACK & YELLOW ARGIOPE                                    GOLDEN SILK SPIDER                                         GOLDEN SILK SPIDER
The Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) has an oval-shaped abdomen (which may narrow when the spider hasn't fed for a while), and black and yellow blotches, as shown. Also, the joints of the legs are smooth, and the completed orb web has a very obvious zig-zag pattern near the center.
The Golden Silk Spider (Nephila Clavipes) has a bent, or rectangular-shaped abdomen (which can be a bit distended if the spider has been fed), and rows of spots on a brownish or orange background. Also, the leg joints have hair, an the completed orb web has no zig-zag pattern. It also seems that the Golden Silk Spider gets much larger than the Argiope.

June 23, 2002  The spider in the image below ( Golden Silk) features a large spider sometimes called a "Banana Spider" because of the curved shape of its yellowish abdomen. They are abundant at Brazos Bend State Park, particularly along the trail between Elm Lake and the Observation Tower (also known as "Spillway Trail"). Some spots along this trail look like something out of an Indiana Jones movie,  with large groups of big spiders hanging in a mass of webs. The female of this species is about 5 times the size of the male. The name "Golden Silk Spider" comes from the gold tint that can be seen in the web when the light hits it just right.

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                      GOLDEN SILK                      MANY GOLDEN SILK SPIDERS! CLICK TO ENLARGE (800 X 600)        IT'S EATING!

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