Thursday, October 12, 2017

Orb Weaver

On our front porch, beside the door, a writing spider built her web. We watched her when she began-- it only took her an hour. This is the third writing spider that has built a snare on our little stoop in the past month. The first two, I kindly removed, for they spun their nets too close for my comfort. I am a tall guy, and I usually catch spider webs right across the face, certainly when they are stretched where my front door opens.

We never kill these yellow beauties, nor the vile looking brown ones that occasionally appear around our house. With the amount of insects hanging around our porch lights at night, we can use all the help we can get. Just the other day, a katydid made a fatal miscalculation and overshot his landing on the porch rail and ended up dinner for our eight-legged gatekeeper.

Moths, grasshoppers, houseflies, and other spiders have fallen prey to her over the last weeks of her tenure. Each capture an interesting display for us of the struggle of the living against certain death. Tangled in her web, each victim unsure of how to escape, but each seemingly knowing what is to come next.

She makes quick work of administering her sleep elixir, then wrapping her food as for safe-keeping until it is time to dine on the rewards of her labor.

The other two spiders-- the ones we had to relocate to the bushes on either side of the porch -- are thriving as well. Everyday they're about their business, though we now watch them from a distance. Their webs are twice as big as the one on my porch. The spider at our door keeps her web to a minimum, as if she knows where her boundaries are. She seems content to coexist with the heavy traffic in and out, all day and half the night.

Earlier today, however, I noticed she wasn't looking well. The bright yellow markings on her back had faded, and are pale and milky, as if she is going to shed her skin. Later, I saw her crawling away from her web: she was crawling sluggishly on the wall toward the hand rail; she looked like she had been left out in the rain. I stroked the back of her abdomen with my forefinger, but she didn't seem to notice.

I'm not sure of what has happened to her, what has caused her to act this way. The spiders in the bushes are just as lively as they ever were, and they have resided here much longer than she has. Could it have been she was attacked by another arachnid, or perhaps by a bee? Maybe it has to do with one of the questionable insects she had partaken in, namely a stinkbug, which there are plenty of those around.

As I stand here now, looking down beside the porch rail, I see our spider balled up on the ground. Her sojourn ended at the bottom of the steps, just out of sight of the beautiful display she had created for our edification. It was as if this creature knew that her time was short, and her work here was finished. Now she has returned to the soil from which she emerged, and we look forward to the next early autumn when an Orb Weaver decides to make our front porch it's home.

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