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The Spider Web

Just now I saw something I've never seen before, a spider weaving vis web. I missed the very beginning when I got there, the frame was already in place, along with maybe a quarter of the radial strands, pointing in all directions. So, that was the first order of business connect a strand at the center, run out one of the existing strands to the edge (carefully holding the new strand off to the side with one of the back legs), and then move over and attach the new strand. Then run back to the center along the new strand maybe laying a double strand, maybe eating and replacing the original, or maybe just running, it was hard to tell.

Then it was time for the spirals first the compact central spiral where ve'll sit and do nothing most of the time; then, reversing direction, a quick loose spiral out to the edge of the web; then, finally, reversing direction again, a slow tighter spiral back to the center. For the loose spiral, the turns were spaced as far apart as ve could reach which makes sense if you know ve was using the previous turn to move and navigate. The spider, I should say, was roughly 1/4" in diameter, so that's how far apart the loose turns were. Then, for the tight spiral, the turns were about 1/8" apart.

What was really amazing, though, was all the details. When the spider was laying the loose spiral, for example, ve'd be holding on to two radial strands, one ahead, one behind, and then all at once ve'd tug on the leading strand, swing vis spinneret over to touch it, make the connection, and let go. Pulled by the leading strand, the point of connection would jump outward, so fast that the connection just seemed to magically appear without the spider ever having been there.

Or, when ve was laying the tight spiral, I could see ver pay out the silk with both back legs, one after the other the motion was exactly like what you'd do if you were pulling thread out of your bellybutton with both hands. And, every time, ve'd pay out the silk and then wait half a second, perhaps letting the silk cure, and only then swing over and attach it to the radial line. And, when the new spiral came close enough to the old, ve'd eat up the old silk as ve went, so that in the end only the new spiral was left.

And, those are just the details that I happened to notice as a casual macroscopic observer. Imagine the details the spider was aware of knowing the different kinds of silk, gauging the tension in the lines by how vis weight pulled them down and how they vibrated.

The parts that I saw took about forty minutes, so the whole process might have taken an hour; the finished web was about 4" in diameter. Actually, let me change tenses here it's now almost two hours later, and the web's still there, also still about 4" in diameter. It's over in the middle of my screen door frame, so I can go look at it any time I want. Yup, still there!

The spider's been living there for almost a month now, and seems to make a new web every few days I don't have the exact schedule figured out yet. The first webs ve made were set in one of the corners, but gradually they moved outward, until one day when a connection was established to the other side of the 2' wide door frame. Since then the webs have been centered in the frame, and I imagine they'll stay centered as long as I don't absentmindedly walk through the web as I go outside but don't worry, I posted a little warning note for myself.

People often tell me I should get a pet. Depending on my mood, in return I might tell them about the pet ants I once had, that lived in my kitchen, or about the pet rabbits and prairie dogs I have, that I keep in holes outside. One time I had some pet Canadian geese that lived in a pond nearby I saw them raise their four or five children that year from tiny little chicks to awkward adolescents, waving their wings around just to get the feel of them. I'm also partial to ducks, raccoons, and crows, but they tend to move around too much to count as pets.

Anyway, now I have a pet spider.


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@ July (2005)