A female, Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the care of my handsome husband. Some of you know me well enough to ask if the hummingbird is alive. Yes, it's very much alive, and so is my husband.
Areneus gemma and her orb web gems.
This isn't merely to gross you out. She's eating a bundle of flies. If she could subdue it, she would bundle and eat a hummingbird the same way.
The Ruby-throated hummingbird had become ensnared in a spider's web. I happened to find her on my deck. Fearing she was dead, I picked her up, then felt her quiver. Gingerly, I picked away the web. By weight, the web had the strength of steel. The bird could not have been worse off had she been bound up in duct tape. Hummingbirds can die of strokes and heart attacks when frightened badly enough, so I worked quickly. Then, I set her on the end of the stick where she sat long enough for a few photos, and the tender ministrations of my husband. Who's cuter, him or her? Hhhhhmmmm. He's adorable, but I did remind him that the size of his head from her point of view was probably comparable to a meteor barrelling down on him.
Hummingbirds use spider's web for nest material to affix lichens and mosses to tree branches. They also steal insects from webs for food before the spider gets to them. That's probably what this bird was doing when she got snarled up. In case you feel sorry for the humming bird, remember that the poor spider was a mother to some little spider somewhere.
A common, late summer spider here is the orb-weaver Araneus gemma. This large spider is sometimes called the "cat-face", "monkey-face" or "humpback" spider since it has a pattern of dark markings and raised areas on its back that look like a face. I turned the spider upside down on the above left so you can make that out. Now, don't be squeamish. Look at it. It's the same spider that Charlotte's Web was written about, so how bad can it be?
Females of this spider are generally rounded with angular 'shoulders' and can reach a size exceeding a quarter. They make webs in undisturbed corners, often near porch lights, and are found in late August and September around the eaves of houses. The spider hangs upside down waiting for prey. She remains in contact with the web via a "trap-line" thread that signals when insects have been ensnared, or perhaps, a hummingbird. When an insect hits the web, the spider rushes to it, bites it, then wraps it up like a burrito. A spider would have to be able to subdue a hummingbird in order to eat it, though technically, it could. More hummingbirds are eaten by Praying Mantises than spiders.
These spiders are abundant in our yard right now. I counted twelve before I wrote this even after last night's hurricane winds. The webs are round, thus the family name, "orb-weaver," and big - almost two feet across. I admit they are sort of annoying when I walk into them face first. Since they like doorways, this happens frequently. Some people use a broom to clear them away. If you are one of those people, you may now leave the room. Would you whack a Praying Mantis? It's praying, for God's sake! Would you go at Charlie Weaver (may he rest in peace) with a broom? Where do you think he got that name? Orb-weavers lay eggs in a sack that they then carry to someplace that looks good and stuff it where it will later hatch hundreds of baby spiders. Many of them overwinter as tiny spiderettes until spring. The little spiders get around by 'ballooning.' They spin a thread of web then leap into the air where they are carried away on their web tethers. Would you whack at Charlotte or her children? Huh?
When I lived in Paraguay, tarantulas were plentiful. Most mornings when I arose, they were sauntering across the floor of my dwelling. Sometimes my cat, employed to keep the rats under control, would be playing hockey with them. The tarantulas would not have killed me if I had been bitten, but they would have killed my cat. Nonetheless, I did not whack at them with a broom. I used a broom to scoop them up and toss them out, even though each morning they returned. They ate a lot of cockroaches, so it seemed fair that I tolerated them. I have put my money where my mouth has been when it's come to putting up with spiders. Now, I must go find my broom so that I can whack at my husband to keep him away from the humming birds.