Spin, Spin, Spin

A furrow orb weaver spider spins a web

I never cared much for spiders.

This summer was no exception. Our house is in the woods, and I’ve become accustomed to seeing webs draped here, there, and everywhere. But this year’s spider season seemed over the top, especially when measured by the quantity of spider poop I scrubbed—repeatedly and begrudgingly—off the siding.

Then, one little silk spinner made me reconsider my arachnid animus.

As I watched, she spun her web against my kitchen window, less than an inch from the pane. The furrow orb weaver mesmerized me as over and over, she released silk from her spinnerets. Each time, she knotted or tacked a dab of silk to a prior strand. Then she dragged the silk, drawing it into a fine thread, until she reached her target attachment point. The speedy spider moved lithely and seemingly laser-focused, and I could not stop watching.

Here’s a tiny snippet of her work. This video is a tad longer than I usually publish, but I don’t think you’ll become impatient as you watch.
Did you see the silk she extruded from her spinnerets? It’s liquid when she releases it, and it hardens as she moves and draws it out. If you pause the video at 32 seconds, you’ll see the silk line, which she’s drawing out with one foot as she climbs up another strand. And you may have noticed that I ended the clip when the spider put a silk smudge on my window. That’s when she was about to start a new ring in her orb-shaped (circular) web. She rested a moment (or maybe she was replenishing her silk supply?) and went back to work, dragging new lines from that point of attachment on the window.

Here’s a tiny portion of that video, in slow motion, where she initiates a strand and uses two feet to maneuver it alongside another silk line.And here’s another snippet, which I captured when she was well into her web-building. Watch how adeptly she works with her rear feet.The first video shows her working principally with her front feet, which presumably she can see as she gathers and knots the strands. But most of the web construction I saw took place using her hind legs and feet. On an entomology website, I asked if the spider can see beneath and behind her—she has eight eyes, after all… could some of them be oriented to allow a posterior view? But as I suspected, it turns out that the spider builds principally by touch. Not only that, she’s spinning both sticky and non-sticky strands as she builds. To navigate, she walks on the non-sticky strands and avoids the sticky ones that will snag her prey.

Here’s one last view, which shows her handiwork after she’d been working for several hours.

Furrow Orb Weaver

Finally, in case you’d like an even closer look at the star of today’s blog post, here’s a terrific resource. It has more information about furrow orb weavers, with much better photos than I can ever hope to take.

So, after admiring my spider neighbor’s handiwork, my arachnid animus has abated… just a bit.  If only the spiders could find a way to launch their poop so it didn’t land on the house’s siding. They need to take a lesson from the silver-spotted skipper caterpillar… but that’s a topic for another time.

4 thoughts on “Spin, Spin, Spin”

    1. I hadn’t either, before seeing this spider put on her show right in front of me. It really is amazing. Darn little poopers!

  1. Like you, Carol, I grow weary of the spider webs all over everything (including the tops of my lamps!) but their work is fascinating. I used to enjoy watching the big garden spiders make their webs when we had a garden. We power washed the house this year specifically to get rid of the spider poop. It didn’t take long for it to reappear even after we changed all of our outside bulbs to yellow. It’s my only regret in changing the color of the house from dark brown to cream color. 🙄

    1. We put in bulbs reputed to have a light spectrum that doesn’t draw bugs. So I can only imagine what this would be like with regular bulbs. This year was a banner year for the spiders, and I’m hoping for a little less poop-scrubbing next year. And you’re so right about cream-colored siding. Sigh!

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