The Bowl and Doily Spider - Freeloaders Accepted

The web of the Bowl and Doily Spider (Frontinella pyramitela (Hentz) is one ugly but seriously cool structure. It has an upper area known as the bowl and a lower area referred to as the doily- thus its name, the Bowl and Doily Spider. The spider sits upside down beneath the bowl suspended above the doily.

When I had first seen this spider, I thought that the spider was waiting for insects to fly into or crawl into the bowl portion of the web- but my thinking was wrong. The spider is actually waiting on insects to fly between the bowl and doily sections- it then uses the underside of the bowl to quickly scamper over to and above the insect caught in the doily web lines where it then wraps the prey in a sheet of silk webbing. It also- on occassion- wraps its victim for eating later. These spiders belong to the sheet weaver family of spiders- the Linyphiidae family.

Although the web of the Bowl and Doily Spider looks very messy and not nearly as elegant as the webs of the orb weaving spiders (see photo at right for a comparison of a common orb weaver type spider and the Bowl and Doily Spider , click the photo for a larger view)- it is nonetheless interesting for the reasons already mentioned. In fact, Donald Stokes, a well known naturalist, is attributed to having said: "...one of the most spectacular feats of engineering in the natural world...It will look like either a small circus net, the kind that is suspended under aerial acrobats, or a gossamer bowl about five inches in diameter." (http://www.wellesley.edu/Biology/Web/Species/aspiderbowlanddoily.html). It is thought that the purpose for the design of this web is to help protect the spider from attacks from above and below and allow the spider time to run away from predators.

Ah, but to me the males of this species are the real attraction. It seems that they bulk up by eating as much as possible and then go in search of a female's web for a place to live. They want to be bigger so that they can fend off other males that may try to intrude into the female's web palace and steal their girl (and her nice crib.) In contests for the squatter's rights to the female's web- the larger male spider usually wins. (http://www.americanarachnology.org/JoA_free/JoA_v13_n3/JoA_v13_p396.pdf)

But perhaps I am being too critical of the males- perhaps they do earn their keep. Evidently they are passionate lovers. I haven't personally timed spider copulation- but some scientists have- and the male Bowl and Doily Spider typically averages 15 minutes- although some go for a lot longer than necessary for reproduction. A scientific study has been undertaken to study the reason for this. (http://www.springerlink.com/content/p417t003233828j0/) I'm glad to see our tax dollars going to good use. :)

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