Saturday, October 15, 2016

Arachnid Row

I met my buddy Tom today to celebrate his having received, at long last, a much-coveted F-5 (permanent resident) visa. We had incredible beef-brisket sandwiches at the Hard Rock Café in the Lotte World Mall in Jamshil. Afterward, we went our separate ways; Tom took the subway back to his place while I chose to take my 90-minute Jamshil-to-Daecheong walk back to my apartment.

Part of my walk is a mile-long stretch that parallels both the Tan-cheon, on one side, and the Yangjae Freeway on the other. The walk is surprisingly beautiful despite all the traffic off to the left. This time around, I noticed a huge web in the trees on the right, and when I looked closer, I saw a large spider hanging in the middle of it. Based purely on the geometrically perfect shape of the web, I'd say the spider was an orb-weaver. The term covers a variety of spiders; many orb-weavers are compact-looking, but some are elongated. The spiders I saw along the path—and there seemed to be about one per tree—became too numerous to count. They had all spun sturdy webs (web sturdiness is another orb-weaver trait; the webs are said to be able to survive hurricane-force winds), and in every case, each web's owner sat patiently in the exact center of its web, waiting for the telltale vibrations that signaled the arrival of dinner in the form of a trapped and struggling insect.

I tried to take pictures of every spider I saw, but I gave up for two reasons. First, there were simply too many; they all began to blur together. Second, my damn cell-phone camera kept auto-focusing on the distant background instead of on the enormous spider in the foreground. Maybe "enormous" is an exaggeration: these arachnids weren't anywhere near the size of the tarantulas I used to own. The orb-weavers' bodies weren't exactly small, however: they were about the length and thickness of my meaty thumb. Add the leg span to your consideration, and they were a good four or five inches in length. They looked capable of moving very fast, and also of inflicting a painful bite. Their brightly colored cephalothoraxes and abdomens hinted at poison. I kept a respectful distance.

So every picture I took was blurry. I apologize for what you're about to see. I also took several videos of the spiders, and I've provided links to those videos at the end of this blog post. Meanwhile, enjoy the tour.

First spider. Look for it in the center of the image. Its black-and-yellow banded legs ought to stand out somewhat. See it?

Below: in case you missed it, I darkened the background to isolate the spider.

I took around fifteen pictures, and the following image was the least blurry of the bunch. Note the spider's red-tipped abdomen, which looks ominous.

This next photo shows a spider in shadow. I thought about deleting this pic, but it's the only one I have that shows one of the spiders actually eating. You may have to use your imagination to figure out which end is the cephalothorax and which is the abdomen. It's not obvious in this image, but the prey had already been thoroughly wrapped in webbing. I suspect I took this pic while the spider was in the suck-your-dissolved-guts-out phase. Yum.

The next two images are of "Spide-zilla." Thanks to forced perspective, this spider looks as though it might be hanging off the enormous Lotte World Tower (yes, that's Jamshil in the distance).

In the final pic, the spider is facing upward:

Here are the links to my spider videos. Again, sorry for the blurriness.

First video.
Second video.
Third video.
Fourth video.
Fifth video.

In that last video, you get to hear me make a startled noise when the spider suddenly starts moving. I kept the camera on the spider, though, and I was smiling the entire time. So I'm sorry to disappoint, but there were no freak-outs with girlish screaming.


Charles said...

Does your phone not have a touch-focus function? Most smartphones I've seen do. Anyway, it looks like the lighting was pretty poor for photo taking.

Also, that spider is indeed a golden orb-web spider, specifically a female (the males are tiny in comparison). The scientific name is Nephila clavata, and the Korean name is 무당거미. They are in fact poisonous (the only poisonous spider in Korea—or, more accurately, the only spider with venom that affects humans), but they are not aggressive; I've taken many close-up pics of these little shamans without them even flinching, and I've never been bitten.

Kevin Kim said...

My phone does indeed have a touch-focus function, which I tried several times, but which refused to focus on the spiders. It'd be nicer to have a "macro" function.

Thanks for backing up my surmises with real research. When I was a kid, I used to know everything about spiders, but all that knowledge leaked out of my brain.

Charles said...

Yep. Spiders are cool.

HJ and are were hiking last weekend, and we passed by a shaman spider that had woven a huge web. It was held up by a single strand that ran up to a branch about three meters above it; the strand was so thick it almost looked like yarn. Now that's commitment.

gordsellar said...

The trick with the touch focus (at least on an iPhone) is to zoom in, focus-and-hold, and then zoom out. Worked for me on the spider pic I posted on Twitter (which your comment on brought me here, Kevin).

I didn't know there were spiders that could poison-bite a person. How serious is the venom? I used to walk home under some persimmon trees in Jeonju, until I noticed they were lousy with these huge, creepy-looking spiders and I started taking the (slightly longer) route with no trees. I think I have pictures somewhere, though...

Oh, yeah, like, here. Not sure that's the same sort, but they creeped me out!