Possumhaw: Season of spiders

October 15, 2012 12:08:38 PM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


"I went to a garden party; reminisced with my old friends ... "  


Ricky Nelson  




Hanging between the cedar post and the gardenia bush is the web of a garden spider. 


Here in the Prairie we love watching garden spiders and take great care to protect them. 


Garden spiders are beautiful and their webs are exquisite. The spider is about 2 to 3 inches long and a beautiful yellow and black. The web is symmetrical and about 2 feet in diameter. At the center of the web is a silk-woven thread about 1/4 of an inch thick and in a zigzag pattern. The silk is said to be five times stronger than steel and 30 times thinner than human hair. 


I've read conflicting reports of exactly the purpose of the garden spider's zigzag threads. Some say it's a warning to birds not to fly through the web; some say it's a retreat for the spider, and some believe it adds stability to the web. 


The garden spider waits patiently near the center zigzag, hanging head down, and waits for her prey. The web isn't just a home, it's also a tool for catching food. While leaving the house I glance over at garden spider to see if she's had a good night while the bugs were plentiful. Most mornings she is busy wrapping her food catch in more spun silk, as if she is preparing the day's sack lunch. 


The yellow garden spider is also called the "writing spider," due to the creative zigzag she spins in the center of the orb. I have to smile at my possible occupational attraction to her, as well as her colorful beauty and delicate web.  


The garden spider selects a rather sunny location for her web. Ours is just near the door, where the outside light attracts potential larder. Unlike some spiders, our guest is active in the daytime and can be seen causing the web to wave or vibrate when she detects prey has entered her web. This activity further entraps her victim.  


Miss Garden Spider is said to be poisonous, but not seriously so. We make a point not to disturb her, but if one were bitten it might cause a small inflammation that will disappear within a few days. Her life span is about a year.  


I anticipate watching her through the first frost, typically around the first of November. I would like to see how she fares in the dropping temperatures. 


October always seems to bring out spiders and their webs in the Prairie. There's another brown garden spider that conceals himself by stringing his orb-shaped web from tree limb to ground. He positions himself right at eye level so that if one walks into this spider's web they invariably erupt into the "spider dance," attempting to rid themself of the sticky web and wicked spider.

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.