The soft mists float through my Appalachian Mountains after a night of heavy drizzle. The morning sun breaks through the clouds revealing clusters of shimmering diamonds on silk strings. They are scattered all over the abandoned strip mine. If not for the fact that I was heading into my day job, I would have thought that I had stumbled upon some fairy treasure trove in the dreamworld. But this isn’t the work of elves and pixies. These magical tapestries are woven by the spiders.
Each droplet seems to float in the air forming a perfect sphere. Most of the webs are chaotic teepee shaped masses but one stands out from the others. One is an Orb-weaver.
All spiders are genetically programmed to make whatever kind of web it is that they weave. But the Orb-weaver seems to blend engineering and art. Regardless of how the web is anchored the spacing between the chords comes out even. Well, most of the time. Nobody gets it right the first time. Everyone has to practice and even then everyone makes mistakes. Even those who are genetically programmed with the engineering pattern. Young spiderlings have the pattern but mot the experience.
Though I don’t really want them in the house I do try to tolerate them in gardens and around the property as part of my pest control. Especially the Orb-weaver spiders whose webs continue to work to catch pests well after the spider has moved on.
Most people today are aware of how strong a spider’s web is. What looks like a monofilament strand of silk is actually a spun cable made of multiple fibers. But there’s more. A spider web is held together with two types of liquid. There’s the sticky goo that we’re all familiar with and there is a natural preservative. Spiders wrap up their prey in silken cocoons to preserve it. Science has confirmed that the second liquid has antibiotic and antifungal properties. If you’ve ever heard that in folk medicine to put a clean spider’s web on a cut there’s more to it than just covering the wound and stopping the bleeding. A fresh spider’s web might actually prevent infection.
The dew covered web has been on my “target list” for a while and I want to get different angles and aspects as opportunity allows but for now the clock is ticking and I only have a few minutes to get what I can before I start my shift. As I snap a few extra clicks of the shutter the vibration of my smartphone alerts me that I’m out of time. Whith any luck this spider will keep this spot for a while and I’ll have another opportunity to see water droplets glistening in the sun.
I should also give a shout out to my favorite spider of all time on YouTube. LUCAS!
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