Warning to Auntie Beak and other arachnophobes: this post is about spiders.
I had an unusually high number of butterflies in my garden recently. They were mostly “American Painted Ladies.” Of course we also had, and continue to have monarchs and the occasional lingering tiger swallowtail.
I think I can attribute the increase in butterfly action at least partly to the plants in my garden. I try to plant with pollinators – bees, butterflies and hummingbirds – in mind.
Tithonia “Torch” (Mexican sunflower) is a favorite, as are helenium (Sneeze weed) eupatorium (Joe Pye weed) and verbena bonariensis. They went really crazy for the two “Blue Chip” buddleias I planted last year. They absolutely covered the bushes.
Here’s the dramatic part:
A large “Argiope Aurantia” or “Black and Yellow Garden Spider” built a web near the base of one of the buddlieas, and trapped and ate several butterflies and at least one bee. I had to take down its web to get through to the hummingbird feeders, but I didn’t try to harm the spider.
I don’t think it is up to us to decide which wild things are “nice” or “mean,” and it annoys the heck out of me when other people do.
I was hoping that the destruction of its web would send the spider somewhere else, solving my ethical dilemma, but when I went back out a mere half hour later, the darned thing was rebuilt. It wasn’t as showy as the original, but it was functional, and the spider was busy devouring a bee. There was another silk-wrapped meal (dessert perhaps?) waiting, the remains of a painted lady.
After reading more about garden spiders and the potential for hummingbirds becoming trapped in their webs and dying, (!!!!) I scooped up the spider in a kitchen strainer and gently deposited it in another part of the garden, far from the hummingbird feeders. The next day, I saw that it had built a new web on one of the hydrangeas.
The painted ladies have moved on. Apparently there was an irruption of them in our part of the country this year. It was cool while it lasted. The hummingbirds left all at once one night, although I am maintaining a couple of feeders for the stragglers. And the spider? No sign of it this week, not even the remnants of a web.