Just got a paper out in the Journal of Arachnology
Stingless bee interception is not affected by variations in spider silk decoration
The functional significance of web decorations in orb-web spiders has been an area of intense study for well over a hundred years. Two main hypotheses, (prey attraction and predator avoidance) have had intermittent support and criticism. By varying the decoration pattern, spiders minimize the potential predation costs of constructing a highly visible signal and deter potential prey such as bees from associating decorations with danger. The prey attraction hypothesis implies that as the signal changes, so should the response of the intercepting insects. In this study, I tested the response of bees to varying decoration patterns. I show that stingless bees (Trigona carbonaria) respond to the silk decorations of Argiope keyserlingi Karsch 1878 in similar ways irrespective of the pattern of decorations. I also demonstrate that the likelihood of prey hitting the capture area is greater than that of hitting the hub area in decorated webs. Since stingless bees respond similarly to different levels of signal strength, I conclude that variation in decorations does not affect prey interception.