Thursday, August 09, 2007

Clever outdoor insects

The outdoor cats occasionally use a particular section of the garden as a litter box. We've accepted that our yard, which hosts as many as a dozen cats, will occasionally house some kitty poo as well. Laura's not particularly happy that it's next to the house, though. We're also not happy that the various kitty excreta also attract flies, who occasionally make their way into the house (where the flies quickly become cat toys, but not before buzzing around the kitchen for a while).We were quite happy to see the return of some of last year's enormous garden spiders. They're pretty savvy spiders, and this year they've made their webs right above where the kitties do their business.

It's entertaining to watch (can you tell we don't have cable?), even for those of us with short attention spans; you can't watch the spiders for five minutes without seeing one of them catch a fly. And the spiders are on the side of the web facing the house, so you can get close to the action without worrying about the spiders leaping out and attacking you. The bottom view also gives a more detailed look at what's happening; the spider's body isn't in the way. I was surprised at how quickly the spider wraps up the fly, and also at how long the fly is caught in the web before the spider moseys over to check him out. I should also mention that the spider in this picture, at two inches long, is smaller than average; the biggest we had last year was over twice this size. Really.

We've also seen a praying mantis or two around the garden. The mantids (by the way, did you know this is the correct plural for "mantis"? You do now!) hide well, so we rarely see them. But occasionally one will wander within touching distance. I put this one down near the outdoor litter box and watched him for a few minutes to see if he could catch a fly. Silly question. Of course they can! It's unnerving how quickly they strike. And, unlike the spiders, the mantids don't play around. They're eating the instant they catch the fly.

For a fun read about spiders and mantids, amongst other predators, check out Gordon Grice's book of essays: The Red Hourglass. A fun and occasionally creepy read!

1 comment:

Ted said...

Hey, you DO know that spiders aren't insects, right?