The Good Charlottes

Charlotte II           I’m going to tell you about the Writing Spiders.

           Last year, when Husband and I were living with my in-laws, a spider took up residence between a shrub and the foundation by the front door. I’d never seen such a spider. Huge black and yellow body with long elegant black legs. She sat in the middle of a strange and beautiful web shot through the middle with a thick zigzag of silk.

                 I discovered these are the argiope aurantia, or black and yellow garden spiders, also known as writing spiders. They’re harmless and eat lots of bugs, which is nice. The female spins her web in late summer, including the thick line called a stabilimentum. The smaller less spectacular male hangs out nearby in the bushes until the fall when they mate and he dies. Then she lays her egg sac and dies. Which is all kind of sad, but fascinating nonetheless. And also very like a certain children’s book about a spider and some farm animals that I really loved as a child and might still love though I haven’t read it in ages.

                   Now husband and I live in a condo with a little garden and I’ve recently discovered our garden is home to four writing spiders, who I have dubbed The Charlottes. There is a funnel web spider that lives around the corner but she stays clear of The Charlottes, it seems.

                   I like these spiders. They write their cryptic silk hieroglyphics and no one knows why. There’s no proof the web is more stable for it. No proof that it helps them lure prey or mates. So I think they must just love writing for the sake of writing.

                  Every day she sits in her web, totally still, waiting for lunch. At night she repairs the web. But always there is that squiggle of silk down the middle of the web. She works hard and writes even when no one is looking.      


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