It was one of those wild Dewees moments: coming out of coffee Wednesday, Anne and I were transfixed watching a cicada trapped in the web of a Golden Silk Orbweaver. More commonly known as a banana spider (for the large yellow abdomen), the spider’s web was right outside the Huyler House door. I had noticed it on Tuesday, when I was wondering if a Carolina anole might get caught in it, along with a tiny green leafhopper which was already there. It was the frantic buzzing and thrashing of the cicada that initially caught our attention as it vibrated the web and the other interconnected webs nearby.
A spider immediately moved over to the cicada and injected it with venom, and (moving so quickly that we almost missed it), a second large spider immediately headed for the prey as well. We watched as the spiders, apparently working as a team, both latched on to the poor cicada, who got quieter and then silent, and then stopped moving altogether. I snapped a photo on my cell phone before deciding that I needed to go home for another lens.
By the time I got back, only the larger spider was guarding the prey. While we watched, that spider retrieved the leafhopper, snipped the threads that held it suspended in the web, and deftly placed it between the cicada’s wings. She then gently wrapped the cicada with the tiniest of spider silk threads.
In one of the photos below, you can see her spinneret releasing silk to wrap the cicada. The video footage shows just how deftly she moves all of those legs to position the silk, and the cicada, right where she wants them. Music by Frank Easterlin.
Want to explore how strong spider silk really is? Check out this video testing the limits.