Royal Society Publishing

Spider signals: are web decorations visible to birds and bees?

Matthew J Bruce, Astrid M Heiling, Marie E Herberstein

Abstract

We are becoming increasingly aware of animal communication outside the range of human sensitivity. Web decorations are silk structures used by orb-web spiders to deceive prey and predators. However, despite the level of interest in these structures, their visibility to prey and predators has never, to our knowledge, been objectively assessed. Here, we use spectrophotometric analyses to show that the decorations of all five tested spider species are visible to honey bees and birds over short and long distances. Furthermore, the discoid decorations of one species may provide some protection against arthropod predators. However, these decorations are inefficient at camouflaging the spider against birds, despite the overlap between the spider's body and web decoration.

Keywords:

Footnotes

    • Received January 10, 2005.
    • Accepted February 22, 2005.
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