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Female false black widow spiders, Steatoda grossa, recognize webs based on physical and chemical cues

Fischer, Andreas, Hung, Emmanuel, Gries, Gerhard
Entomologia experimentalis et applicata 2019 v.167 no.9 pp. 803-810
Parasteatoda tepidariorum, Steatoda grossa, bioassays, energy, females, habitats, semiochemicals, silk, webs
Females of the false black widow, Steatoda grossa CL Koch (Araneae: Theridiidae), invest significant energy and time weaving cobwebs. We tested the hypothesis that S. grossa females select sites for their webs based, in part, on the presence of con‐ or heterospecific webs, sensing both physical and chemical web cues. In bioassays, we offered female S. grossa a choice between an empty control frame and a frame bearing the web of a conspecific female or that of a female common house spider, Parasteatoda tepidarium CL Koch (Araneae: Theridiidae), recording (1) the time she spent, and (2) the time she spent inactive (a proxy for settling behaviour) on each frame. We also tested the effect of (1) silk micro‐ and macrostructure (wrapped‐up silk or intact web, each semiochemical‐deprived), (2) plastic webs, and (3) silk semiochemical extract on the responses of S. grossa females. Females settled on both con‐ and heterospecific webs and chose test stimuli based on their chemical and physical characteristics. Even plastic webs in cobweb‐like arrangement readily prompted settling behaviour by females. Our results suggest that web architecture, rather than web silk, mediates settling responses by female S. grossa on pre‐existing webs which may provide structural support for a new web and indicate habitat suitability.