I've picked up some new readers lately, thanks to folks like Lu'. And it occurs to me that these newcomers may not be aware of my Spider Fetish.
I just love spiders. I love the way they silently descend on their gossamer threads to appear right beside you in the garden as if to say, "Hi! I'm an inch from your nose!" I love their work ethic - how they construct their webs anew each day, and finish just in time for the morning dew to glint off the strands. I love the way they hunt, whether it's the ambush method of the ground-dwelling wolf-spider or the savage determination of the orb-weaver as it throws strands of silk over prey twice its size before moving in to deliver the fatal bite.
If any of this this creeps you out then you are free to leave now, brushing imaginary creepy crawlies from your arms as you go. In fact, its advisable. For arachnophobes, this post is only going to get worse for you. Cross my heart.
At the top of the page is a picture of Minerva, and of all the garden spiders we have this year - and they are bountiful - she is the smartest because she knows the top rule of Spider Real Estate: Location, location, location. (You'll want to click on the pictures to fully appreciate the detail of how the web is constructed.)
A few weeks ago, when she was just a half-inch across, she built her web in the corner of the stall we've fashioned into a milking parlor. Barns are great places for webs, and this particular stall is a favorite destination of flies. Minerva's presence keeps them down considerably, which is good for me. I hate flies.
Yes, garden spiders are cool. But they aren't as cool as Golden Silk Spiders. In the late summer of 2006, I began chronicling in painstaking detail the life of Octavia, a golden silk spider that I brought home from the local arboretum.
Octavia was a warrior - beautiful, brutal and fearless. She wove massive golden webs, tackled prey three or four times her size and even cannibalized another golden silk spider that made the mistake of wandering into her web.
I fell head over heels in love with her.
I probably shot over a thousand photos of that spider. In October of that year when I found her shrunken, lifeless body I cried like a baby. Sad but true. I try to be practical about nature and knew she wouldn't live through the fall, but I really had grown terribly fond of her.
We made the mistake of leaving her egg sac in the greenhouse, where it hatched early before the last frost. The babies proceeded to sneak out and did not survive. So the following year we brought home more golden silk spiders. Some laid egg sacs but we've found no babies here. Well, not yet, anyway although I suspect they may be in the tall pines.
But we keep trying. Larry brought me home a few golden silk spiders last week. None are as big or impressive as Octavia, but I have high hopes for a particularly industrious one that had the foresight to set up her web near the dog kennel.
This weekend I hope to return to the arboretum to see if I can find some larger golden silk spiders, and the spindly little males which always emerge later in the season. I don't imagine I'll find anything to rival Octavia, but who knows. I may get lucky. If I do, I'll let you know. And in lurid detail. Cross my heart.
Cooler weather always means death to the spiders, which makes me sad. I've often fantasized of finding some way to prolong their life, but after seeing this video I was reminded of the dangers of experimenting with nature. So if you're not yet sick of spiders, do watch this video. It's highly educational. ;-)