Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leafy homes

Believe it or not, this is an apartment block. For spiders.
(Have all the squeamish readers clicked away in fright? Yes? Only three of you left? Okay, let's proceed.)

You'd be forgiven for thinking this is an angel's wing begonia, and it is to us gardeners, but to some very docile little spiders it's the apartment block where they live and cause no problems at all, apart from swatting flies.

Here's the occupant of apartment 32B, spotted this morning while I was watering the garden below his apartment block.

He's vewy vewy small but he's not alone. Lots of Begonia Mews' leaves have similar eight-legged occupants who set up webs within the gentle curves of the leaves and make a living trapping inattentive flies, aphids and other passers-by. It's a living.

While most of the residents at Begonia Mews favour an open-plan layout with panoramic views for their leafy pads, there are some who prefer more privacy, and a muted palette of rusty browns. To each their own taste, I guess.

Further up the side path, at Tillandsia Towers, a couple of leaves have been turned into a floating condo for a very shy person who just wants to be alone.

"Go away!" said the recluse when the paparazzi came knocking, and so I slunk away, having got my exclusive shot of JD Spider for Garden Amateur News magazine.

Meanwhile, out at the front of the house they're in a delirium of leafy homemaking. I trimmed the hedges last week and so there are countless leaves still lying around, just waiting for a decorator to do something with them.

Though we don't have much of an autumn here in Sydney, it seems to me that this autumn we have far more of the leaf-wrapping spiders setting up home. It makes sense that they'd do their thing in the leaf-falling season, and while these spiders are around at other times of year, they are suddenly everywhere in my garden.

Colllectively, they perform a handy little service keeping insect numbers down, and they're such small and timid little spiders that they're no bother to me as I potter around. I'm a far more dangerous, scarier thing than they could ever hope to be. My main mission, apart from leaving them alone once I've taken their photo, is not to use any chemical sprays which might kill them (plus the bees and all the other good insect friends in the garden). I wouldn't dream of doing that anyway.

While I can't honestly say that I love spiders (I don't quite, I'm still a bit freaked out by them, or by accidentally walking into webs) I am very happy to say that I do rather like and admire them for their intelligence and natural artistry. As for what they think of me, I'm sure that I'm always just plain scary. Ironic, that.


prue said...

Great post, creepy but cool! Spiders are in the balvony garden, but we tend to keep out distance, me being an arachnaphobe and all. They do help out so much though in the garden.

Shailaja said...

In the garden, the spider's web shows that all's well and thriving, while cobwebs inside denote an unkempt house. But both are better than a cobwebbed mind!

Ilaria said...

Lovely post!

michelle said...

I love spiders outside, the ones that decide to set up housekeeping indoors with me though, that's a different story. Spiders love the climate here and I've observed many types, even a tarantula once, that was really cool. . . The only ones that I find creepy are the black widows, they are quite poisonous. I'm always very careful about empty overturned pots, or the box with the controls to the outdoor lights, the black widows like to hang out in places like that.

patientgardener said...

What fab spiders - they are so clever. My partner is feeling victimised as spiders seem to have taken to his car. It doesnt matter how much he cleans it there are always spiders making webs on it

Brent said...

Very funny post Jamie! Loved Tillandsia Towers, sounds like a block of condominiums in Florida!

Chartreuse said...

You're lucky if you don't also have our aggressive black ants who take a bigger and longer leaf, curl it up lengthwise and then fill it with hundreds of their larvae (correct for ants?) packed into something that looks like styrofoam. I would have photographed the 15cm nest-in-a-leaf I found two days ago, after I accidentally brushed up against it while trimming some small trees overhanging my eaves. However, I was too busy getting safely off the ladder, before jumping around hysterically to shake them off my hat, and finally, finding a way to snip the whole shebang off and get it into a plastic bag before safely disposing of same in the wastebin -- all without getting bitten. I draw the line at doing good to critters who are out to get me when I least expect it!

Stone Art said...

Intresting post, nice photos too

Chookie said...

Nice! We have lots of leaf-curling spiders here too, but no golden orb weavers: we get the matronly grey garden orb weavers instead. And the other day I found a redback (see my blog). Numbers of these are way down since we got chooks.

Anonymous said...

It's great to see what you have done with your garden and I love how you have incorporated the wildlife aspect into your blog. I have the utmost respect for the fact that you don't use chemical sprays and appreciate the bugs and spiders and all the other creatures that make a garden that much more special. Thanks for sharing.