Spider season started this spring with the appearance of a small but extremely athletic brown and reclusive (but not a brown recluse) spider searching for a hideout amongst our silverware. My wife's shriek of alarm brought me quickly to the spot where I was directed to deal with the danger. I am pretty sure, judging from his precipitate retreat, that the spider wanted nothing to do with either of us.
There are more than 3,400 species of spider living on North America, so I cannot reliably claim to identify this one. I can tell you with certainty, however, that it was modest and non-threatening.
I admire spiders. I have, in fact, a cautious affection for them, especially those that specialize in the design and construction of webs. (The silverware drawer was not a suitable domicile for an architect of such glorious structures, so I was not reluctant to encourage the visitor to find another apartment, perhaps at a neighbor’s home.)
A few remarkable facts about spiders (lovingly referred to by the initiated as arachnids):
1. They have up to and including eight eyes (up to one per leg), the number, relative size, and position of which varies from species to species and is a handy clue to the identity of any you might stumble upon.
2. A spider’s web is composed of silk expelled from a pump and valve system that gives the spider a good deal of control of her extrusions. The web not only traps flies (moths, etc.) but delivers information on the location and vitality of the prey, possibly also its taxonomy.
3. A spider’s silk is one of the strongest materials known – stronger, pound for pound, than steel cable. It stretches and softens when first pulled then stiffens as the pulling increases, so if you are caught in a spider’s web, your only option is to talk your way out of it.
For your amusement, I attach a photo of a spider I found visiting our place here at Stone Hill Farm.
Fieldstone's Guide to Insects & Spiders is well underway, coming soon to an app store near you. Add your name to our list and receive news and updates, and let us know if you can identify the spider in this photo.
Yours from the field,