Golden Silk Spiders, Mating

January 19, 2011 | Armonia Nature Preserve, Limon Province, Costa Rica

When I first spotted this female Nephila clavipes, she was positioned rather low in her web. Her background was cluttered and shaded. I prodded her a few times, and as I’d hoped, she retreated to a higher position in her web where I thought I might be able to get a more pleasing background.

Unexpectedly, her quick movements drew the attention of a male that was also hanging out in her vicinity. I’ve read that males prefer to mate when the female is preoccupied with a meal (so they’re less likely to become a meal themselves). Perhaps he mistook her quick retreat as movement toward prey. At any rate, he wasted no time approaching her and getting into a mating position.

I kept snapping away the whole time. This was the only keeper, which I’m pretty happy with. I took awhile to settle on the right settings that yielded a pleasing background with adequate depth of field. Then I just shot away and hoped some would yield the right plane of focus. I didn’t quite nail it, but it looks pretty good at this resolution.

It was complete luck that this photo shows pretty clearly the tips of the male’s palps, where he stores sperm prior to mating. The tip of one can be seen pointing rearwards. The tip of the other is inserted into the female’s reproductive opening, the epigyne.

Finally, is it just me, or does it seem like the females of this species might just be putting on some sexy lingerie for the males? Just look at the pattern on the underside of her abdomen!

Photo Details:

Canon EOS 60D
Canon EF100 Macro lens
Canon MT-24EX flash
Shutter priority AE, 1/160 sec, ISO 800, f/6.3
Exposure compensation -1 1/3
Flash exposure compensation -1

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