A Web Wonder of the Natural World

“We can’t leave,” I say, staring out the back door. We’ve just finished breakfast.



He does. From his seat. “You can only see it where the sun hits it.”

He gets up. “Oh! Magnificent.”

Orb weaver I

We go out on the back porch to have a closer look. “Bring your camera,” he says. He means my phone, but really, it’s a camera 85% of the time.

She has woven her design wizardry, her trap and transitory home, above the stairs from the porch down to the garage. We went in and out yesterday afternoon, so this entire installation was constructed overnight—if Google can be believed, in an hour or so. The contented creator sits at the center, her legs pulled in.

The silk round has equally spaced radii, the spokes of a wheel. The spokes are connected by many concentric circular strands, also mostly equally spaced. The orb appears free-standing, just south of the middle of the stairway, a skeletal hovercraft guarding the gate between us and departure.

Orb weaver II

It takes a moment to see the anchors that hold it in midair; they’re attached to the railings at either side of the stairs. Phil calls them the guy wires. They are set high enough that with his coaching, I can creep beneath them. I take a few shots from the other side, trying to catch the sun. Phil holds up a black jean jacket as backdrop contrast, but the sun bleaches half of it anyway. Then I commando-crawl back under. “Keep your head down,” Phil cautions.

Already we’re apologizing. Such beauty. Such genius. We’re so sorry. But Phil has to go to the dentist and the car, Madam Master Web Builder, is in the garage to which you have blocked the way. So sorry!

Kathleen Cain (my authority on all natural matters) has posted about such spiders before, so I send her a photo and she replies:

“One of the orb weavers—they’re quite active right now. Great for keeping down less helpful insects. There are several varieties. Beautiful webs, which they usually disassemble each day, then spin a new one the next. Tidy campers!”

Kathleen’s remark about reducing undesirable insects reminds me of the large wood spiders in Florida when I was a kid, and the friend I had whose mother kept them. They brought luck to a house, she said, and ate mosquitoes. In some cultures, spiders are symbols of the mother. Because of that, Phil and I catch and release our house spiders.

When he leaves for the dentist, Phil carefully unfastens the northside anchors. “They’re strong,” he exclaims, and carries them slowly to the south, but as soon as he moves a few inches, the central structure collapses, the way a building wired for demolition collapses—all at once, straight down. Our spider is left scrambling up a thick string of sticky remains. Sorry. We’re so sorry. Anywhere else in the yard—it’s yours. But she’s decided not to rebuild here. No new web appears the next day, or the one after that. The master weaver has moved on.

Orb Weaver III



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13 Responses to A Web Wonder of the Natural World

  1. Phil Normand says:

    What a beautiful and fascinating photo (Orb Weaver III) of the dear constructor. It was a shame to bring it down. Just her luck to build it in the middle of a highway.

  2. Thanks so much for this one, Pat!  One of my favorite questions to ask at dinner parties is “where did you experience awe today?”  I use  this mainly to put an end to political, climate, or medical discussions, but  I have this theory that if you can find awe in something everyday, you will be a sane and happy person.  You and Phil are definitely there!

  3. Teresa says:

    We had an orb weaver on the tomato plants. Stupidly thought we could go back to get photos “tomorrow”. “Weaving is the property of few these days. Silver, silken thread is rare to find”.

  4. Teresa J McCrimmon says:

    “Silver silken thread is rare to find.”

  5. Bob Jaeger says:

    Huzzah! always a pleasure to hear from another spider fan. I, too, try to put them safely outside whenever possible—just did that last night, and Jennifer (visiting from Grand Junction) once again expressed surprise at the things her crazy stepfather is capable of.

  6. Michael Stipek says:

    We had an orb weaver put up a lovely web between a large shrub and our front porch railing.  The female was the same gorgeous color as your orange/brown one, Pat and Phil.  Occasionally, we would sit on our front porch and watch her spin more and more elaborations on the basic org design, as well as repair tears from too-large insects.  We did not feel badly if a fly or gnat flew into the web – feeding the lady!
    If there was a morning with a bit of dew (all too rare in our dry climate), the web sparkled in the sun as if it were covered in tiny diamonds.
    One day, there was a soft white tiny puffball at the edge of the web.  Research told us that was the egg mass laid by the spider (that’s how we knew she was a she!). The spider did not make an appearance that day or afterward, so her time to leave her world to the next generation had come.

  7. Brings to mind this poem by the inimitable, if too much overlooked, Robert Francis:

    By Robert Francis

    Here is the spinner, the orb weaver,
    Devised of jet, embossed with sulphur,
    Hanging among the fruits of summer,
    Hour after hour serenely sullen,
    Ripening as September ripens,
    Plumping like a grape or melon,
    And in its winding-sheet the grasshopper.
    The art, the craftsmanship, the cunning,
    The patience, the self-control, the waiting,
    The sudden dart and the needled poison.
    I have no quarrel with the spider
    But with the mind or mood that made her
    To thrive in nature and in man’s nature.



  8. Barbara Fairchild says:

    This was a fun read.  Thanks.

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