Since Labor Day weekend has passed, it’s time to put away those white shoes and to take note of the late summer orb weaver spiders.
Orb Weaver spiders are members of the Araneidae family. These include the ubiquitous yellow and black garden spider and familiar genera such as Mangora spp. and Araneus spp. When my kids were little, they referred to the more common Araneidae as “Charlottes” after E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.
Chimp Refuge field observers, Dawn & Bobby, recently shared a photo of an Araneidae arachnid that has set up her shop behind their house:
This is a pretty spider to be sure, but what genus and species is she? A Mangora? An Araneus? She’s darker than the Mangora in Tom Murray’s most excellent photo gallery of orb weavers and looks a little more like the barn spider. I’m no spider expert. The biochemist in me might be inclined to grind up and extract tissues to identify the critter by DNA analysis rather than check out pedipalps. But that’s not a kind and gentle approach. So, any feedback from the arachnophiles out there would be appreciated.
I can’t leave this subject without a burst of nostalgic reverie. When I was a pre-adolescent, one of my jobs was to mow the lawn. Our rural yard encompassed an acre of tall maples, lindens, ornamental trees, shrubs and open spaces which made mowing something of an obstacle course. Fortunately, the topography was flat – very flat as in Central Illinois flat. I tore around on an Allis-Chalmers riding mower among those trees and shrubs. This was a chore I truly enjoyed since driving the mower offered a minor prelude to my driver’s license. Yee haw!
As previously noted in Do I Get a Badge For This, I am a tad uneasy around spiders. So when I guided the mower between two Spirea bushes and smacked right into an orb weaver’s web, to say that I freaked out is an understatement. I maintained a death grip with one hand on the steering wheel of the mower as I frantically tried to get the web off my face and extract it from my hair. Then out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the waving front legs of the spider on my left shoulder! I shrieked, released the steering wheel entirely and flailed away, hoping to dislodge the orb weaver that may or may not have been riding along on my T-shirt.. The mower promptly ran into our heavy gauge swing set, its wheels digging 6 inch plus deep divots in the lawn, before the mower stalled.
No spider was to be found on my person. My father was none too happy about those mower-tire divots and was not particularly sympathetic to my irrational response to an imagined (probably) spider while operating farm machinery. Much to my father’s relief, no spiders emerged on my shoulder after I acquired my driver’s license at age 16 and tooled around in “The White Whale,” a.k.a. the parents’ 1970 Plymouth Fury III.