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Assorted Wildlife, Beekeeping, feeding, Honey Bees, spiders, Varroa etc

Is she or isn’t she?




Araneus Diadematus-European Garden Spider, a type of Orb Weaving Spider

Zygiella x-notata-Missing Sector Orb Weaver

You see, all this time I have been thinking my girl Cheryl (yes, she’s still hanging around our place) is a common garden spider who had wandered a bit far from the garden admittedly.  She’s been with us since November, the time when the females make their presence felt by preventing you from walking down your garden such is the audacity and sheer width of their web building. But usually by end of December at the latest they have mated, laid their eggs, and then die (or so I have read, see this BBC website on the ‘poignant’ life cycle of the spider).

So, to what can we attribute Cheryl’s longevity? Well, about a month back I thought maybe she was just a very young spider when she first joined us. Because, within the past month, she has definitely grown. To the point that it’s a bit unnerving having her hanging over your head when you are seated on the toilet. Never mind that we have provided her with a few of what we thought were dead (but they only turned out to be water-logged) worms. There’s really no lady-like way for a spider to eat a worm, but it was the only thing we could give her, aside from the dry dead bugs which she had started kicking out of her web.

Ok, maybe she’s a young’un whose just coming into her prime. But I had noticed a few other things. For one, the few times when I can get a good view of her web (it’s difficult as she is mostly against a window in a room with white wall), there seemed to be segments missing. Now, I thought maybe this was because we had interrupted her in her web eating and rebuilding. But, she seems quite happy to build her web in front of us with all the lights on.

Then I read this description of the Missing Sector Orb Weaver:

Z. x-notata females are up to 11mm in size, males up to 7mm. The prosoma is yellow-brown, with a leaf-like mark on the opisthosoma. In moderate climate, adults appear from July to October, sometimes even into December. In warmer regions, they are active all year.

This spider builds its web mostly into window frames, but can also be found on walls, fences, or under the bark of old trees. It is very common around boats and docks throughout the world.

Now, if anywhere can be described as a ‘warmer region’, it’s in our bathroom right next to the airing cupboard where the water heater is.

That missing sector

So, I am confused. And photos on the web are not as helpful as one might think. What I really need is a spider expert to come to the house…

Spare a thought for the bees

Not that I really have to say anything to beekeepers but it is something I am especially cognizant of now around this time of year:  starvation.  You see, a few weeks ago when we had hard frosts, high winds, even flecks of snow my worry was of a different kind.  Will they make it through the cold? Because there is a period when you aren’t seeing them, your mind starts to wonder or wander even. But then you have some warmer days like we have had during the past few weeks, and all the bees are out and about, you think ‘Phew! They made it!’

But just when you think you can breathe a sigh of relief is exactly the time you should start to worry. The danger now is that the hive will start to grow out of all proportion to the food in the hive and on offer outside. And just one cold snap can cause starvation in a hive that might just be in the process of revving up for spring.

So, I have fondant on the brain. Here’s hoping we get through the next few difficult months.

And one last question:  Winter varroa treatment? Another question: what winter? Another question: So, when was the appropriate time with this crazy weather to sneak in a treatment?


Araneus Diadematus:© Michael Gäbler / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araneus_diadematus#/media/File:Araneus_diadematus_(Clerck,_1757).JPG
Zygiella x-notata: Zygiella x-notata (female)<br /> family Araneidae<br /> source: by permission of Ian Pembroke  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zygiella_x-notata_f.jpg
That Missing Sector: Zygiella web<br /> Orb-web<br /> by permission of: Laura Basset https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zygiella_web.jpg



16 thoughts on “Is she or isn’t she?

  1. Thank you yet again fore reminding me that I need to check their fondant. Checked at end of December and all was fine – I have probably been lulled into a false sense of security (again) as I was about to ignore them for another two months – will check their fondant situation this weekend.

    Posted by bluebunny01 | February 1, 2016, 6:48 pm
    • It is quite easy to feel secure when you see them flying about during a warm spell in winter. I have had the same feeling year after year and was only caught out this past year. The weather has been so crazy in the UK that there is every chance the bees will get caught out. We all should be checking the fondant situation….

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | February 2, 2016, 11:42 am
  2. Love you spider saga. She’s definitely moved to a great neighborhood, warm, nice neighbors, plenty of places to eat within walking distance. Great deal.

    Bees. I treated my two (well, really 1 and 1/3) hives for varroa once again, yesterday. We’re very warm at the moment. My Mufasa had a few bees in the center box, but Scar was a revelation! Not only are they doing well (so far…) but I found brood and saw (for the first time in our beekeeping) the queen!!. I just hope I didn’t roll her as I moved the frame back in place. Always something to worry about. All the best with your gals for the remainder of winter.

    Posted by Tina | February 1, 2016, 7:29 pm
    • See, this is what is confusing for me. We, too, have had cold spells and then warms spells sometimes within the same week. So, unless you actually pull out frames it’s difficult to tell at what stage the bees are at in terms of brood. What I think I might do is wait a bit and then buy some of those strips that seem to be ok to use at any point in the season.

      Glad to hear all is going well with your crowd. As for Cheryl, would we all had that life!

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | February 2, 2016, 11:46 am
  3. Oh, I understand your winter bees worries. I’m wondering, too, but in knee deep snow.

    Posted by avwalters | February 1, 2016, 8:10 pm
  4. Certainly glad that you’re providing Cheryl with a good home.

    The bees here are certainly confused–just like me–I’m having thoughts of fondant as well. It seems that lots of beekeepers are seeing a population explosion alrady which is a concern since we likely have more cold weather to come.

    Posted by sa.fifer | February 1, 2016, 11:26 pm
    • Yes, it seems strange to worry when they start to grow and do well. Even at the most normal of weather times, this is the part of the season that tends to be variable, in terms of weather and availability of forage. So bees and beekeepers get confused. I guess all we can do is keep supplying the fondant….

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | February 2, 2016, 11:50 am
      • I’m setting up a new hive today. Next warm day I need to do a full inspection to look for signs of swarming–I’d hate to have that happen. As a new beekeeper I thought perhaps I was being overly concerned about this population at this time of the year, but it seems not, especially since drones are flying.

        Posted by sa.fifer | February 2, 2016, 5:03 pm
      • Yes, drones flying should be a good sign sign of a healthy, growing hive…in about two months’ time. Good luck!

        Posted by mylatinnotebook | February 7, 2016, 12:26 pm
      • I wish it were two months from now–or that I saw only one or two drones, instead of half a dozen trucking around in and out of the hive.

        Posted by sa.fifer | February 7, 2016, 8:42 pm
  5. Re the varroa treatment, there’s a debate over whether temperature or day length is more important in determining whether the colony is broodless. The only way to know for sure is to check. But if you’d rather not check, personally I think the benefits of treating with oxalic acid and knocking back the varroa outweigh the potential risk of damaging any brood and/or not killing all the mites.

    Alternatively you could do a spring husbandry treatment like a shook swarm. Am feeling more nervous than usual about the bees this year, really hope they make it! Fingers crossed for all of us.

    Posted by Emily Scott | February 1, 2016, 11:55 pm

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