Big Versus Little in Nature

by Carolyn Henderson

I have developed a relationship with a Yellow Garden Spider over the spring and summer this year, all courtesy of a tomato plant. Then, a kleptoparasitic Theridiidae genera intruded. This illustrated that big does not always win. 

This large yellow spider (pictured) showed up on my tomato plant (I only planted one) when it reached about two feet tall, sometime in April. It set up house, via a web, and seemed to just stay parked there. It never moved off the web nor did it bother my plant. The tomatoes grew all around it, and I picked them without problem. The growing spider and I were coexisting on friendly terms. I eventually posted it on iNaturalist, and it reached research grade. The tomato plant has become spindly and leaves are turning brown. I normally would have removed it by now, but I didn’t want to remove the spider’s home. 

On Wednesday, my son noticed some very small, metallic spiders on the web with the big one. The big spider had snared and wrapped its daily catch in webbing, and these little spiders were attempting to get at it. You can see it in the pictures.

I thought at first that they were recently hatched babies of the big spider, but I was wrong. I posted a picture on iNaturalist and a helpful identifier who goes by chuuuuung said the little spider is a kleptoparasitic Theridiidae genera – a thieving parasite. The little thieves were going to work on the big spider’s catch. (We are trying to get a video to attach, so come back later if you see this message.)

I have left them both alone. Nature is nature, and you definitely  don’t always win if you are larger. Today (8-6), the garden spider caught a good size wasp and wrapped it up. The Theridiidae were waiting in the outer reaches of the web to take their shot at it.  Meanwhile, the tomato plant is growing more tomatoes.