Friday, August 26, 2011

Night Spiders

The evening of the day I wrote my short tribute to the yellow and black garden orb, I settled into bed to continue reading The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturlist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature by Loren Eiseley (more on him in an upcoming post) and came across this:

It was a cold autumn evening, and, standing under a suburban street light in a spate of leaves and beginning snow, I was suddenly conscious of some huge and hairy shadows dancing over the pavement.  They seemed attached to an odd, globular shape that was magnified above me.  There was no mistaking it.  I was standing under the shadow of an orb-weaving spider…There she was, the universe running down around her, warmly arranged among her guy ropes attached to the lamp supports – a great black and yellow embodiment of the life force, not giving up to either frost or stepladders.  She ignored me and went on tightening and improving her web.

The exact kind of spider - this one finding warmth on a cold autumn evening in the false sunlight of a streetlamp - to which I was paying homage.  It amazes me how often these small coincidences happen.

As Mr. Eiseley sent my thoughts back to spiders and our missing black-and-yellow garden orbs, I ran a quick mental inventory of other insect companions and found that there are quite a few on the MIA list this summer.  While there are more grasshoppers than usual, there are no mosquitoes (hooray!), no deer flies (though the irksome horseflies have survived), or fireflies; not a single ladybug or her less helpful imposter (the Asian Lady Beetle) – and we are missing yet another kind of orb-weaving spider.  These I call the Night Spiders, because they begin their work as evening falls and they are gone again, or nearly gone by the time the sun rises.  They can be fairly large; they’re a light speckled-brown and tuck themselves into tiny, prickly balls and wait in the center of their perfectly-constructed webs.  They populate the length of our tree-lined driveway, one after the other suspended in the branches, sending long strings of thick silk from one side to the other, sometimes anchoring their webs on rocks along the drive.  Then they begin the slow task of spinning the deadly, trapping parts of their webs.  In the morning they patiently reel in their hard work – I know because I’ve watched them – but occasionally they forget a strand or two.  I know this because I’ve walked into them.  It’s like brushing past a remnant of the night world, something from the dark, something of which you catch only the smallest, unsettling glimpse.  A very sticky piece of the night.

(Another small coincidence.  The morning after I wrote this post, I stepped outside into the pre-dawn gray and pink and there, right by the door, was a Night Spider - as if to say, yes, we are still here.  She'd strung her web between the tall holly and a small bush growing up from the monkey grass.  It was too dark to take a picture, so I waited about an hour and came back.  By that time, there was no trace of her or her web.)


  1. I noticed a lack of the funnel web spiders this year but we have quite a few night spiders that build large webs across walkways and driveways right now. The fireflies were here (Norman) back in June and July - they really lit up our backyard!

  2. Normally, at this time of year, we too tend to get spiders, but they are not nearly as "attractive" as yours sound - if you're into such things (which I am most definitely not).

    We just have masses of Daddy Longlegs, which flutter against the light (just as one is going off to sleep - and one gets up to get rid, because I'd hate one to land on me when I'm asleep, which is their tendency). There are also big round black things that scuttle across the floor - not for long, if I have any say!

    You'll realise, I'm not an insect lover!! Like reading about other folks experiences though


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