by Jan Curry from The Round Hill Reporter September 2005
Let me introduce you to another web site
. It is in my garden (probably in yours too). I guess it’s that time of year again because spiders are always lurking around but are most in evidence right now – early autumn. Their webs weave through the stems of flowers, the branches of shrubs and even over blades of grass. In the morning dew or after a shower of rain, they glisten with diamond-like droplets of moisture - gossamer, but completely waterproof.
The webs look so delicate, but my indoor web site tells me that the strands of a spider’s web are five times stronger than steel of the same thickness and can stretch to four times their own length. The spider spins different threads for different purposes: some strands are thick, some thin; some strands are sticky to trap or wrap up prey, while others are not and are used as walkways by the spider (it would be a bit uncool to get stuck in your own web, I should imagine).
Spiders usually spin a new web every day – they eat the old one, as the protein nourishes them. A web with hundreds of individual attachments to each silk line takes less than half an hour to complete. The information then becomes very technical, because although the strands begin as liquid silk, they are immediately hardened when mixed with acid, also produced by the spider. I stop staring at the screen; the information is too mind-boggling, but I feel strangely pleased that scientists are finding it difficult to reproduce a spider’s web.
Not all the spiders in this garden make webs: there are some that live in the wood pile that hide and then jump out onto passing prey. The old walls that surround most of the gardens in this street are also favourite hiding places and are used when the spider is moulting its skin, which it does two or three times in a year.
Garden spiders fascinate me, although the angry buzz they sometimes make when I accidentally walk into the webs hung across the path is a bit disturbing – I didn’t realise they could make a noise.
Spiders in the garden, wonderful: spiders in the bath or scuttling over the bed clothes, not. I go bananas and my long-suffering husband has to catch them and put them outside. Never kill a spider – it will bring you years of bad luck, so my Nan said, and I believed her – still do. Spare that spider, it will kill more flies and insects in its short life than you’ll ever kill in your long one.