Why cross the web: decoration spectral properties and prey capture in an orb spider (Argiope keyserlingi) web


E-mail: sbla3978@mail.usyd.edu.au


An effective visual signal elicits a strong receiver response. The visual receptors of most insects are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV), blue and green light. The decorations of certain orb web spiders may be described as a type of visual signal, a sensory trap, as they exploit visual biases in insects. We filtered UV and blue light from the decorations of Argiope keyserlingi, under field conditions, using plastic sheets to test if the UV and blue light reflected affects the type of prey caught. We found that houseflies, blowflies, stingless bees, honeybees and vespid wasps were caught more frequently in webs with decorations than webs without, while ichneumonid wasps were caught less frequently. Blowflies, stingless bees, honeybees and vespid wasps were caught more often in unfiltered decorated webs. These insects also have receptor sensitivities in the blue and UV. We showed that exploiting visual sensory biases plays an integral role in attracting insects to orb web decorations. Whether UV light, blue light, or both, are the most important cue, however, requires further study. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 94, 221–229.