Pondering whether a spider's web is a work of art or a nuisance
Two of us were minding our own businesses awhile back when each of us interrupted the other:
I was guiding our lawn mower between a maple tree and the garage — not realizing that was the same space where a spider had hung its home. We both retreated — I to disgustedly swipe at cobwebs plastered on my face and hair; the spider to the tree where it probably just as disgustedly surveyed the utter destruction of its entire domain. (The web had been suspended in a 20-ft space between tree and garage. "That creature should've strung its home somewhere else!" I reasoned.)
But, undaunted, the creature (probably a female) started rebuilding immediately. Me? I had plenty of other tasks needing attention, but I was so fascinated, I pulled a chair to the den window overlooking the site to watch her reconstruction.
First, she dropped from a limb to a spot on the tree's trunk via a silk, support line, then attached her strand to the bark with a dab of glue exuding from her bottom end, repeating the process several times in other areas. These lines formed the scaffolding for what would become a circular net ("web") while working toward the center. In about an hour, she had a "new house" all from building materials manufactured in her own body!
Now I felt ashamed of being disgusted at having cobwebs draped across my face. Instead, it occurred to me that some of her long-ago ancestors had been the world's original astronauts, builders, engineers, weavers, trappers!
"Especially trappers," I thought when a small ant (also minding its own business, innocently searching for food) fell onto one of her sticky strands; the spider obviously had been expecting such an event. The ant's struggle alerted her, reminding me of a fisherman who feels a tug on his line. (It's said a spider's sense of hearing and touch is acute, although its eyes are so poor, it's able to see only inches away.)
Instantly, the ant became the spider's center of attention — zipping across her strands while one set of her four pairs of legs, snatched the hapless ant, deftly spun it while her spinnerets secreted silk glue to wind the insect into a cocoon. There the ant hung like a miniature, reserved ham, in the center of her geometric design, awaiting being consumed later.
I had to stop watching as the drama reminded me of a cartoon I'd seen: a spider advancing on its prey, telling its victim, "Sorry, Pal. Sometimes life isn't very pretty!"
Isabel Torrey is a King City resident and longtime, freelance writer and columnist.
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