Mate or meal? The choice a male Garden spider has to take!

October 15, 2015

in A selection of my garden wildlife videos, Gardening For Wildlife, Wildlife

Male Garden spiders, (Araneus diadematus) have a real ‘life’ choice to make!

Well what do you do? The urge to pass your genes on could literally be the death of you! What a choice! Upon finding a female, the male cautiously and slowly approaches the female as she lays on her web. As he approaches along one of her web strands, he taps the strand rhythmically, to let her know that he is a potential mate and not a potential meal! Females may attack and kill potential mates , even before he has mated with her!

Please don't eat me!

Please don’t eat me!

This behaviour is known as sexual cannibalism. She would receive a nutritional boost by eating him, but the male receives no benefits by being eaten before mating.  Researchers found that the smaller males were more likely to be eaten than larger males. It would appear then, that in the case of these spiders, size really does matter! Besides visual sight of the male, she may well be judging his size as he approaches by his weight on the strand, the strength of his tapping and the rhythm! I can see the benefits of the female eating the smaller male after mating, he will be providing nutrients for his offspring. But before mating he will provide food and food only for her and possibly the next males’ offspring if he is successful. Now that would make some interesting research!


You will see her move and either he remains still or drops off the web strand out of her reach. This video took quite a long time to film, then edit. Most of the film not used was of him falling off the web!  He kept dropping off the web out of her reach. I don’t blame him though do you! Unfortunately I had to go so don’t know whether he was a mate or a meal!

Unlike the nursery web spider males (Pisaura mirabilis), who cleverly catch an insect, and even go to the trouble of wrapping it in silk presenting it to the female prior to mating. Interestingly, some males will wrap up an insect carcass or other object and offer that to the female! Its like the Diary Milk Tray man leaving an empty box of chocolates!

For more interesting articles and films of spiders go to Africa Gomez’s fabulous site BugBlog

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