While Chelsea slept, one of the resident Daddy Longlegs Spiders (left) captured an exquisite lacewing (Note part of wing, lower left -- more below) and was preparing its catch for breakfast by packaging it up in a silk wrapper when we came upon the scene. A perfect opportunity for our ongoing macro-photographic experimentation with existing equipment. The purchase of a fancier camera and macro lenses is still in the research and development stage. The hand-held, flash image above, taken in our Pentax Optio 450's macro mode, compensates for what it lacks in photorealistic detail with a kinetic choreographic energy reminiscent of Martha Graham's "Lamentation" (right).
Daddy Longlegs [Daddies Longlegs? Daddy Longlegses?] "have a special method of hunting," writes Bryan Goethals of the Werkgroep Inheemse Spinnen. Unlike orb-web spiders, whose sticky silken structures enmesh passing prey, or funnel-web spiders -- blogged here -- who wait inside their funnels to pounce upon unwitting wanderers who stumble into the sheet webs spreading from their door, Daddy Longlegs perform a maneuver akin to gameskeepers' hobbling a large mammal by casting a heavy, entangling net over the animal's body. Goethals explains:
Their untidy web is used more as a place to stay than for catching prey . . . Normally the spider throws tough stiff web material over the victim and disables its mobility. After the prey is motionless, the spider engulfs its prey by spinning the web all around it. The spider makes a hole in the ball of the web and bites with its small jaws in the weaker parts of the prey. Then it spews digesting juices in the wound. Most of the time the prey is not consumed completely and larger preys are often left behind unfinished.
We tried taking a few shots using the Velbon DF 40 tripod, but none were as sharp and detailed as this one taken free hand. 'Course we couldn't get as close as we wanted, what with the spider's having relocated to a narrow, remote corner not designed to accommodate a standard tripod. Gotta practice a lot more with the tripod in more open situations, preferably with good available light. The super macro mode -- as opposed to the macro mode used here -- records only the sunny hours (no flash), and today is overcast with intermittent rain in these parts. Note victim's eye just to left of spider's purple/brown abdomen near top and slender pink body lying diagonally behind transparent wing middle right. What a way to go. The dance hold of Fred "Daddy Long Legs" Astaire himself comes to mind (above right in Silk Stockings).
Daddy Longlegs Spiders also have a special way of warding off intruders:
Also known as Vibrating or Cellar Spiders, members of the Pholcidae family live in houses and buildings. They make their untidy webs in the corner of a wall or a ceiling. They are also often found in the basement or cellar . . . When they are disturbed or when they are under a threat of attack, they start vibrating in their web violently to scare off and discourage their enemy.
By late morning when we went back to check, the night stalker had moved its silken bundle across the room to a more secluded wall near the sink. We tried to get a closer look using one of those bar-magnifier rulers. When it inadvertently touched the web, the spider went into a spinning frenzy worthy of a Clinton spokesperson, even as what was left of the silk-encased lacewing hung motionless attached to the wall close by.
Shall we dance?
Update: Pajamas Media links.
Update II: Eric of Classical Values links, with some intriguing, illustrated spider-inspired insights of his own:
This reminds me of a post I wrote after seeing a funnel weaver spider in my backyard which I thought was "so feminine and graceful in appearance that it reminded me of Salvador Dali's painting of the half human spider Arachne."
As we commented in response, "Art imitates life imitates art. What gloriously tangled webtales we weave . . ."
*Blogpost title is a play on the title of the musical "Silk Stockings," music and lyrics by Cole Porter.