Webs of Gold in the Costa Rica Rainforest

The morning sun filtering through the rainforest foliage at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge in Costa Rica shimmers gold as the light catches the strands of the complex web woven by a golden orb spider.

I’m generally not a big fan of spiders, like most people, but the golden orb is fascinating. These large spiders weave enormous pigmented webs, adjusted in color for camouflage, with protecting chemicals, and such incredible strength and elasticity that bioengineers and other scientists are studying ways to mass-produce their silk.

The golden silk orb-weavers (genus Nephila) are noted for the impressive webs they weave, and are also called giant wood spiders or banana spiders, according to Wikipedia. Their name refers to the color of their web silk, although the female spiders do have gold spots on their large bodies and black and yellow striped legs, which are specialized for weaving.

The spiders are widespread in warmer regions around the world – the Americas, Australia, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. They are the oldest surviving genus of spiders, with a fossilized specimen dating to 165 million years ago. You can find golden orb spiders hanging out in their shimmering webs everywhere around Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge and along the trails.

Threads of their webs shine like gold in sunlight. Studies suggest that the silk’s color may serve a dual purpose: sunlit webs ensnare bees and other insects that are attracted to the bright yellow strands, and in the shade, the yellow color blends in with background foliage to act as camouflage. Golden orb spiders can adjust the web’s pigment intensity relative to background light and color. They also secrete a chemical – pyrrolidine alkaloid – on the strands that protects the web from ants.

The fine-meshed spiral webs are gigantic: they can span 20 feet tall (6m) and 6.5 feet wide (2m). When you look at a web, you can’t help noticing the female spider since she is huge; golden orb females reach sizes of 4.8–5.1 cm (1.5–2 in) not including leg span. Those little spiders on the web are the males, being usually 2/3 smaller (less than 2.5 cm, 1 in).

If you should doubt the strength and elasticity of a golden orb weaver web, walk into one. You’ll find it is not easy to remove. When walking the trails at Nicuesa Lodge, I always watch out for golden orb webs – they are beautiful to admire, and you want to avoid being covered in the sticky silk. While the spiders rarely bite humans, their venom is potent with a neurotoxin effect, though not lethal to humans.

During your visit to the unique Costa Rica eco lodge at Playa Nicuesa, be sure to look out for these amazing eight-legged wonders. Capturing the morning or afternoon sunlight on their webs produces beautiful photos.

Article by Shannon Farley

Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is a fun eco-tour on Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

Just 10 minutes by boat from Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is a magical playground for animals at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary. The animal refuge is a popular eco-tour for Nicuesa guests.

Meet sloths, kinkajous, tayras, ocelots, peccaries and anteaters. Stand next to Scarlet Macaws perched on an almond tree. Watch white-faced monkeys swing and play, and have your heart melt when a spider monkey comes to hold your hand.

The sanctuary on the Golfo Dulce coast at Cana Blanca was originally an eco-lodge started by owners Carol Patrick and Earl Crews. Carol got a reputation for tending to injured animals, and soon locals began dropping off orphaned and injured wildlife until there was no time for guests. The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1996.

 

At first primarily an avian sanctuary, after Poppy the spider monkey arrived in 2003, all sorts of wonderful critters started showing up. The sanctuary is currently home to about 70 orphaned and injured animals that are indigenous to the southern zone of Costa Rica. Sadly, many of the animals are victims of illegal pet trade. Monkeys, wild cats, kinkajous, Scarlet Macaws and other prized creatures are captured as babies, and then abused or discarded once they reach adulthood when their owners don’t know how to deal with a wild animal. The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary works closely with the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) to rescue illegally-held animals.

Carol and her staff try their best to rehabilitate animals to release back into the wild. For each animal that enters the refuge, a complex and often unconventional playground, specifically designed to mimic its natural habitat, is created for housing. Same types of animals are put together when they can be. Environmental enrichment features – like species-appropriate toys, imitation streams with cascading water, and tree branches –encourage natural behaviors and prevent boredom.

The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organization and relies on donations and tour fees to help with expenses like food, staffing, veterinary medical care, and supplies. Guided tours for visitors cost $25 per person and reservations must be made in advance.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, just down the Golfo Dulce Coast, offers its guests tours to the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sensitive eco-lodge set on a 165-acre private preserve. Like the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary, the Playa Nicuesa Reserve borders the lush rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park and fronts the pristine Pacific coastline of the Golfo Dulce. The award-winning eco-lodge caters to travelers interested in ecotourism, nature and adventure. They offer family vacations, honeymoon trips, nature and adventure vacations, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

Costa Rica’s Rich Biodiversity Reveals 5,000 New Species

It is amazing, that in this day and age, scientists are still discovering completely new species of plants and animals in the world. You would think that everything had already been discovered.
In Costa Rica, for instance, recent reports reveal that 5,000 new species of animals and plants have been discovered and classified between 2011 and 2013. The finding is part of the country’s National Biodiversity Strategy (ENB in Spanish) for 2014-2020, which follows the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. Most of the new 5,000 species found are insects. The others include a few orchids, mushrooms, mollusks, fish, reptiles and birds.

In the world so far, scientists say they have identified between 1.5 and 1.8 million animal and plant species, about half of which are insects. Beetles are the largest group with 300,000 species. In comparison, there are only 4,500 species of mammals recognized on the planet. Costa Rica, although a tiny country occupying only 0.03% of the planet’s landmass, hosts more than 500,000 plant and animal species. Keeping with the world trend, Costa Rica has about 300,000 kinds of insects. (Anyone who has ever walked into a Costa Rican rainforest without bug repellent knows this!)
Scientists estimate there are probably roughly 8.7 million species existing on Earth, according to a 2011 study in the journal PLoS Biology, published by the Public Library of Science. The crucial point is that approximately 83% of those plant and animal species have yet to be discovered. Scientists calculate that there are probably 6.5 million species living on land, and 2.2 million in the ocean, but that 86% of land-inhabitants and 91% of ocean-dwellers are still roaming at large undiscovered, described or cataloged, reports the study.

At Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, you can see an abundance of plant and animal life. Located
on the Golfo Dulce next to the Piedras Blancas National Park, the award-winning eco-lodge features several unique ecosystems – primary and secondary rainforest, ocean and mangrove forest. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge offers nature and adventure tours, yoga classes and retreats, family vacations, and honeymoon trips.

Waterfall hike- The Monkeys were on the Monkey Trail

Coming back from the waterfall, walking down the Monkey trail we heard a big noise and the tree branches breaking. We stopped completely and stood quiet paying attention to the forest to realize that it was the jungle mafia, yes the White Face Capuchin Monkeys giving us a warning: “HEY YOU GUYS! This is our territory”.

 Mike and Lisa were captivated by the scout of the group and the troop behavior. These are the smartest monkeys in the Tropical Rainforest, they are opportunists (they eat everything) and they can live up to 45 years. Capuchin Monkeys travel in packs from 6 to 8 males and as Mark and Lisa witness it, they fight to protect their territory.  
Guide: Freiman