Wasp spider discovery
During our holiday in 2017 in the Pitztal valley (Austria, Tirol), I discovered in the garden of our holiday apartment a female wasp spider sitting in her web. For me, living in the Netherlands, it was the largest spider I have seen in the wild so far.
I grabbed the opportunity to set-up my tripod and Nikon D800 with the Nikon 105 macro lens attached. While enjoying the nice view on the Pitztal valley and the surrounding mountains, I took remotely photos from the spider on a distance of some 20 meters by using a tablet.
Later, when moving my tripod, I also discovered a rather big egg sac of the wasp spider.
The wasp spider
Argiope bruennichi (wasp spider, Dutch: tijgerspin) is distributed throughout Europe, north Africa, parts of Asia, the Azores archipelago, as well as North American states.
The spider species has a rather large distinction between males and females with males averaging length of approximately 4.5 mm and females averaging 15 mm. The female spider shows striking yellow and black markings on her abdomen. The spider prefers to weave her web between grass at a height of 20 -30 cm. This spider is not poisonous for us, although it might bite in rare situations.
When the spider catches her prey, she wraps it very fast in spider silk. After a lethal bite with venom and protein dissolving enzymes she waits until the prey does not struggle anymore. The prey is than sucked empty or hanged as packet in the web to consume later.
The wasp spider lays eggs in a cocoon (egg sack) of a few centimeters high made out of spider silk. This cocoon is normally found some distance away from the spider web and attached to plants 20 – 30 cm above the ground. The cocoon is a master piece of design as shown in the article Cocoon weaving and eggs laying (by the Dutch photographer Jan J. van Duinen).