On a foggy morning walk, it may seem as if the spider webs on your path have turned into jeweled wonders, every thread a string of gems as smooth as pearls and as sparkling as diamonds. Each of these “jewels” is a drop of water the web has collected from the misty air. As with many beautiful natural phenomena, dew drops on a web are shaped by forces we can’t see. In this case, two factors are at play: the physics of water and the micro-structures of silk. [Read more…] about Dewdrops & Spider Webs
One neighbor calls our house “the spider house” because so many orb weavers spin webs outside our large living room windows. Our spiders work on their webs at dawn and dusk, and I watch their silhouettes against pastel skies as they move like aerialists – twisting, pulling, building, repairing. [Read more…] about The Architecture of Spider Webs
Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, reportedly affects from three to six percent of us worldwide. In fact, it’s the most common phobia among humans (I assume the fear of humans is the most prevalent phobia among other animals, spiders included). Experts aren’t sure why we’re so scared of web-spinning arachnids, although evolutionary selection and family genetics are likely involved. [Read more…] about Giant Joro Spider
I put the small brown ant I had mounted (but never identified) under a microscope and peered down at it. Two huge, headlight-like eyes stared back at me. That couldn’t be right; ants don’t have eyes that size and shape.
I took the specimen to my professor, who initially waved me off with, “It’s an ant.” But after looking at it under magnification he excitedly turned to a guidebook showing several unique species of jumping spider that look uncannily like ants. [Read more…] about Ant-mimic Spiders: Masters of Disguise
Picture a robin, out in the morning and hopping around the park. It finds breakfast in the form of a worm, but out of the nearby trees swoops a bigger bird. The bigger bird acts threatening, and the robin surrenders its worm like a kid giving up their lunch money to the school bully. It’s a common scenario between many kinds of animals – and a classic example of kleptoparasitism. [Read more…] about Kleptoparasitism: Wildlife Thieves
Among these hardy invertebrates, and the ones that are quite conspicuous to anyone that spends time working in the yard, garden or on the wood pile, are the harvestmen, known to most as the daddy-longlegs. [Read more…] about Daddy Longlegs During Winter
With cold weather approaching, those of us who heat with wood look forward to the cozy warmth that only a wood fire can provide. Especially if it’s a fireplace, or a stove having a window so you can watch the flames, it’s the kind of ambiance perfect for sharing with loved ones on frigid evenings. With the Covid-19 situation, however, visitors may be fewer and far between for a while. [Read more…] about Working the Bugs Out of Firewood
Large fishing spiders walking on water can be fascinating – or terrifyingly unnerving. The latter reaction is common among Saint Michael’s College students as we sample Vermont’s streams and ponds.
On one occasion, a normally macho student screamed, dropped his net, and leaped from the stream to avoid a particularly large specimen. But have no fear; these beautiful beasts will not carry your offspring away. In fact, they are completely harmless – at least to humans. [Read more…] about Fishing Spiders: A Primer
Many of us avoid close encounters of the eight-legged kind, but if you’ve ever come eye to eye with a spider, you’ve probably noticed they have several more eyes than we do: most have four pairs. What do they do with so many eyes? Well, it depends on the spider. [Read more…] about Spider Vision: Those Eyes Are Watching You
This May, while we thank the human moms around us, I’ve been thinking about the many dedicated moms throughout nature, too. Nurturing mothers come in many unexpected shapes and sizes, including a few diminutive examples – like spider moms. [Read more…] about The Nurturing Nature of Spider Moms