Spider season

Hi everyone,

It’s spider season. Whether those orb weavers and wolf spiders and grass spiders and all sorts of other spiders freak you out or fascinate you, it’s that time of year when you spot them everywhere. If you spend much time outdoors you’ve probably already walked into your share of webs and stopped to look at those large round webs strung across open spaces. Where did all these spiders come from?

Truth is they’ve been there all year, quietly going about their business of catching and devouring the juices from small insects and other spiders. Millions of midges and moths and flies have perished, thanks to the army of spiders that share our homes and yards with us. Most spiders around us that started as small ones in spring themselves became victims of other spiders, lizards, toads, large insects, and birds during the warm months, but those that survived have fattened up on their success until they have grown large enough to “suddenly” appear everywhere. Besides that, they’re also looking for love before they perish from age or nature.

In the pool the other evening I was bitten two or three times by midges, which bothered me far more than the two spiders I spotted at one end of the pool and one at the other, hanging on their slender webs and removing other midges from the world. I fished a couple of drowned spiders off the floor of the pool and rescued another by lifting it from the water on the back of my hand and setting it on the deck. Later I took a picture of a spider busily spinning a new web in a hackberry tree beside our table and stopped to chuckle at a wolf spider that has taken up residence in a vacated wren house on the kitchen windowsill.

If you can’t beat them, join them. There are more of them than there are of us. Without them we might get carried off in our sleep by flocks of mosquitoes!

Now just bear with me on this . . .

Hi everyone,

In the past few days I’ve given myself a good talking to about bragging too much, and I took wise advice from trusted friends, including suggestions about my propensity to talk about turtles and spiders and such. I think all this helped me quite a bit, more or less.

But here’s the thing about spiders. Let’s say that spiders make you shiver with disgust and you want to smash every one you see with your foot. That’s fair, except to the spider of course. I understand. BUT. Let’s say further that you also are a writer. And one day, no matter how much you despise it, you find yourself having to write something that has a spider in it. Now you’re in a fix. The only spiders you’ve ever studied were attached to the bottom of your shoe, and they weren’t really giving you their best face.

Let’s imagine that E. B. White felt the same as you about spiders. What a fix he would have been in when his pig picked out a spider to be his best friend. But he didn’t cower and utter rude remarks about his pig’s poor judgment and deplorable taste in friends. He did not change the story and insist that Wilbur choose a butterfly or a June bug or a chipmunk as his pal, confidant, and role model. NO! He soldiered on and wrote quite charmingly about a spider named Charlotte. “First,” she said to her little pig pal, explaining how to properly dispatch a fly that had just blundered into her web, “I dive at him . . . Next I wrap him up . . .and knock him out so he’ll be more comfortable.” She then proceeds to wrap the fly in silk and set it aside for her breakfast. “I am not entirely happy about my diet of flies and bugs,” Charlotte clarifies, “but it’s the way I’m made. A spider has to pick up a living somehow or other.”

You think White made up the life of a spider or read descriptions in a book, or did he really look at spiders and observe them going about their stealthy, deadly business of eating flies and, sometimes, one another? Me? I think he knows too much to have Googled it. He tells it too well to have imagined it. I think E. B. White was an observer who wrote about what he saw and came to understand the world around him.

So back to me and my blog and these spiders I keep watching. Last week we had two new ones move in about ten feet apart. One, a filmy dome spider (that’s its name I swear) showed up at the upper corner of the window that separates our dining and living rooms. It hung out for a couple of days checking out the place for a potential corner office.
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The other, a large funnel web spider, took up residence outside the kitchen window between the glass and the frame. My first clue was a small leaf that blew into an otherwise hard to see web. 20160902_203542_resized
Before long, a bee hung suspended near the leaf, and this was interesting enough to get the spider up and out of its hideaway.
Meanwhile Miss Filmy Dome had hung her own web out for business and was as busy as a, uh, seven-legged spider. She had two gift packages already wrapped and waiting when she had time to stop for a bite.

But then fate stepped in. Our big hairy scary funnel webber made a mistake. She set out to pay a neighborly visit and got caught up in the conversation. Next thing she knew, she was dinner.
She hung overnight next to the small plate specials like a beef in the window. Yesterday morning the feast began as I watched. The hostess, several times smaller than her guest, was at all times polite as she picked away over much of the day. When at last she’d finished with the main course, she tossed the remains from her nest like any tidy homemaker might. Somewhere in the weeds below the denizens of the underworld must have rejoiced and yelled, “Food fight!”
20160917_123348_resizedWhen I stopped taking pictures, Miss Filmy was daintily finishing her meal and, I would think, be preparing for a nice long rest to aid her digestion.

Next time you have to write about a spider, find a web or two and settle down for a good watch. No major actors in these dramas, but dramas they are nevertheless.

P.S. I just stomped on a spider crawling across my floor. Man I hate those things!

The night belongs to spiders

Hi everyone,

Sitting outside late last night beside the water. A full moon worked its way through the hackberry overhead.20150729_224533_resized

To our left a busy spider trapped a small moth and dashed across its web to claim its trophy.20150729_224116_resized

Five feet away a second magnificent web was the stage for the nimble dance of another spider with its midnight snack.20150729_223954_resized

I didn’t look around for more webs, but I knew they were there. Warm night, plenty of moths, great for hunting, if you’re a spider.