Argiope graces the farm

As always on Thursdays, my head was deep in Market Zone for most of the day.  Loading totes, displaying produce, checking off countless boxes ping-ponging around in my head to make sure that the farm stand sets up smoothly, beautifully, and on time.  Check.  Then in the late afternoon, as the interns overhauled our debris mountain into a working compost pile with Ted's guidance and a pair of sprinkler hoses, I found something wild.  Something I never even imagined existed in this place.  At once terrifying and mesmerizing, she caught me in my tracks.

Argiope.  Argiope aurantia.  It has a nice ring to it, like a Greek goddess-- better than the common name of "yellow garden spider".  I had seen spiders like this in the Ecuadorian Amazon, four times as big, webs spanning entire footpaths with their giant signature "stabilimentum" of thick zigzagging silk crossing through the lower radius of the web.  And here in an abandoned lettuce bed, surrounded by two-foot-tall pigweed and flowering lettuces and rogue cabbage babies, here stood another Argiope.  

 Argiope aurantia, the yellow garden spider

Argiope aurantia, the yellow garden spider

I knelt to see her closely, and immediately felt betrayed by my curiosity, as if it might implore me to touch the wicked-looking animal.  Would taking a photo get my hand too close?  Within nightmare-jumping-spider range?  No, it turns out.  I didn't need to worry.  In fact, the next moment I realized that the one that needed to worry was this spider.  This bed was due for tilling, and she was smack dab in the middle of the tractor's path.

So I tried to coax her onto a red field flag, but she hung tightly to the long flower stalk of the pigweed.  Eventually I broke the plant at its base-- two feet of buffer between me and this elegant monster would be enough, right?-- and though I planned to use it as a wand to whisk Argiope away among the corn stalks, she dropped herself to the ground and scurried away on her own eight legs.  

These spiders, I found later with some research, are not aggressive and will only bite in defense.  Even then, humans react with just a mild red welt.  I can rest assured that, should we meet again when that neighboring corn patch ripens, I can take another moment to let my dismay and fear dissolve a bit further toward admiration and awe.  What a beauty.