Carolina Wolf Spider – Female
I spotted Charlotte here in the garage about five this afternoon, when I came in to get my wallet for a quick trip to the hardware store. I’d been mowing the smallish field that lies below the hill at the back of the yard and run into a hidden stump, bending the blade of the “less than a month old” lawnmower, as the Sainted Wife repeatedly pointed out, beyond repair. My protestations that replacement blades were cheap fell on deaf ears, so I changed the subject, not to mention the participant.
“Would you like to see some spider babies?” I asked Ngnat, who had been observing my dressing down with some interest.
The answer was of course positive, as Ngnat has had babies on the brain ever since Scotty M joined us. Even SW was sufficiently intrigued to cease, at least temporarily, her incessant observations on the tender age of our lawn care equipment, though that concern was replaced with another when it became apparent that the spider babies were less than a foot from the door of the kitchen.
“You see how lumpy that spider’s rear end is?” I asked Ngnat and her suddenly skittish mother. “Every one of those lumps is a baby. She carries them around on her back until they are grown up enough to go off by themselves. There might be as many as two hundred there.”
Ngnat has no idea of how large any number is above after about six, so the final observation was meant entirely for the benefit of her mother. Sainted wife, being no fool when it comes to the eternal gavotte* between husband and wife, rewarded me with an appropriate glare, but took no other action. She then returned her attention to the spider, which maintained an admirable stillness and equanimity in the face of Ngnat’s……face, which had come to a stop about six inches way. I forebore mentioning that the spider could easily jump onto Ngnat’s face from that distance, had she the desire.
“Spider babies,” Ngnat declaimed. She then stumped back up the steps to the kitchen, and departed, as did the Sainted wife, who expressed a fervent hope that the spider babies and their mother would be relocated at some point in time.
That was about five hours ago. When I checked in on them before closing down the house for the night, Spider Mom and family had moved a few inches down the garage steps, fulfilling, at least for me, the technicalities involved in “relocation.”
That’s when I took the picture above. For a cheap ass and by now long obsolete piece of equipment, the digital camera Ngnat’s Nana and G-daddy presented us with upon the occasion of her birth did a pretty decent job of caputuring the family Lycosidae for posterity. Still, there are better pictures of wolf spider mothers and the babes they carry. You can see one of them here.
As I told Ngnat, all the lumps on the rear end of the spider are children, though not necessarily the offspring of the mother pictured in either photograph.
The young, unless brushed off, sit where they are, but in dangerous situations they alight of their own accord. One such dangerous situation is when two wolf mothers come face to face. In such an event there will be no friendly discussion about the care of the children: there will simply be a fight. The children themselves realise this and lose no time in dismounting and making themselves scarce. Peering from cover, they then watch a fight that is no kid-gloved affair.
Eventually one panting matron stands over the other. Fabre has recorded such a fight and shown us the victorious one holding down her opponent, gripping her with her legs and pressing down on her belly. Amongst female spiders no quarter is given or expected. The prone one spits viciously and the other one waits her time to avoid those snapping jaws and bite into the brain.
Fabre also relates how, after the coup de grace had been given and the conqueress was eating her opponent, all the children came forth from hiding and climbed onto her back. And there they sat until mother–for she was “mother” now to all of them–had finished her meal.
It follows therefore that a matron, if a good fighter, may go out with her own children in the morning and come back in the evening carrying three lots packed several tiers deep.
Three is the limit. Fabre experimented and managed to get three loads on to one mother’s back but could not manage a fourth. The mother herself raised no objection, but the load became so top-heavy and swayed when the mother moved so that those perched on the summit fell off.
—-from John Crompton’s The Spider
I’m planning on teaching Ngnat a new song tomorrow, if Charlotte and her brood are still around.
Spider mom, spider mom
Does her thing, with aplomb.
She has got, lots of eyes
she eats bugs, she eats flies
Here comes the spider mom.
Then I’ll make sure she sings it for her mother.
*Yes, tarantella would fit in with the theme, but I rejected that notion as overly contrived. Besides, gavotte really was the first thing that sprang to mind.