A couple of weeks ago on the Ponce de Leon Park Nature Path, I happened across some fine examples of spider love. These orb weavers ( I believe they are Venusta Orchard Spiders – Leucauge venusta) typically spin a classic spiral web as seen here.
But, when it’s mating season things change a lot. The web building becomes both more and less organized. I am not sure of how to check genders on spiders but, generally, the female is larger. So, the following is entirely supposition on my part. While the female spins a very regular screenlike web. It is a variant of the normal spiral web but is never the entire circle. Just a very dense crosshatch as can be seen below. If you look closely you can see the underlying, normally scaled, web pattern with the crosshatch filling it.
In the meantime, several males can be seen spinning random chaotic webs in the nearby area. It’s like they are battling to see who gets to mate with the female. They don’t actually fight each other, simply spin as much web material as possible. Since spiders can eat webs to replace the material, this may be a way to provide the impending baby spiders with something to eat when they are first born. Since chaotic webs don’t provide prey location information as orb webs do then this may also be a way to catch food for the young. I believe the female also incorporates some parts of the chaotic webs into the suspension line for the egg sacs.
In this picture you can see the rectangular grid web that the female had been spinning while the males were spinning randomly. Once a single male is left, mating takes place on the females web. It gets somewhat torn up by this activity. The picture above was taken while the mating was taking place. After mating, the female first creates a very strong suspension line for the egg sacs and then puts her fertilized eggs into a couple of spherical eggs sacs that hang like a spring of beads.
After that, she rest for a while and departs leaving the eggs to develop and hatch on their own.