Let me make it clear, I don’t like spiders. It’s not like I run away screaming when I see one. I’ve been forced to share the bathroom with a wolf spider and we both survived but neither of us enjoyed that experience either. On the other side of the spectrum, my wife see’s them as a necessary part of her garden. And when it comes to spiders in her garden there’s nothing she appreciates more than the large garden spiders. Seven of them reside at various locations in her garden and she checks on each of them at least once a week.
Mind you, these are not regarded as pets, they are welcome guests with a purpose in her garden. Every year I’m treated to her excitement when she discovers a new resident spider and her despair when one of the garden spiders disappears. No, I don’t think she’s named them and truthfully, I’m afraid to know.
Such was the case when one disappeared for a few days only to reappear missing several limbs. Obviously there had been trauma because her web was ragged and incomplete. My wife was very concerned about the spider’s ability to capture dinner.
I don’t know how it happened but I was elected to feed the spider. I could have turned the assignment down but if you’re married, you know how such rejections come back to haunt you. “Dear, what’s for dinner? Oh, Brussel sprouts again?”
I fed the spider grasshoppers because they seemed obvious and we have plenty of them. I was several grasshoppers in before I turned to ChatGPT. Here I learned that spiders only needed to eat every few days. So much for the three grasshopper a day regimen I had her on. Still, her web was definitely looking better and she looked a little less pitiful.
Four weeks into this arrangement and I have to wonder why. Even scarier, I think she’s starting to recognize me. When I started feeding her, she would flee to the edge of her web and wait until I was clear. I was definitely okay with this but we lost several grasshoppers that way. Gradually her reaction has become one of acceptance and this last time my hand wasn’t even clear before she was encasing the grasshopper in webbing. That’s a very disturbing thought, intelligent spiders.
At this point I have the same question you have. Why am I doing this?
- I’m trying for husband of the year
- I’m deep into insect preservation and trying to ensure survival of the species
- I hate grasshoppers (well, that’s definitely true)
- I’m a low level sadist
I don’t like any of the other options, so I’m entering my name into the husband of the year competition. Please vote for me when you receive your ballot.
As I continue down this path, I have to wonder what this is doing to my karmic balance. I know this is a part of nature. Yes, I’m preserving the life of a spider so her offspring can be born. I’m also shortening the life of a good many grasshoppers (I’ll ignore the huge multitudes of grasshoppers eating every hint of vegetation in my wife’s garden). Is this driving my balance positive or negative?
Knowing I was fated to playing Maitre d to Lucky (my wife had named her) I turned to ChatGPT for more information on garden spiders. Turns out my wife is right; they are very beneficial to a garden. Who knew?
Recently we had a heavy windstorm and in the aftermath both Lucky and her web were missing. I was surprised to find myself looking for her rather than being relived my duty as main spider chef was over. In the end, it wasn’t me that found her. Instead she found me by almost crawling up my arm (there are limits). She’s been relocated to her original spot and given a nice grasshopper for dinner.
ChatGPT on Garden Spiders:
Garden spiders, also known as orb-weaving spiders, belong to the family Araneidae and are commonly found in gardens, fields, and wooded areas throughout North America and Europe. These spiders are known for their distinctive orb-shaped webs, which they use to capture flying insects like flies, moths, and mosquitoes. Here are some key characteristics and information about garden spiders:
- Physical Appearance:
- Garden spiders come in various species, but they generally have a round or oval-shaped abdomen and long, slender legs.
- Their colors and patterns can vary, but many garden spiders have a mottled or striped appearance with shades of brown, black, yellow, or orange.
- Females are typically larger than males, with body lengths ranging from 0.2 to 1 inch (5 to 25 mm), depending on the species.
- Web Structure:
Garden spiders are known for their intricate orb-shaped webs. These webs consist of a radial framework with radii extending outward from a central hub and a sticky, spiral-shaped capture spiral where the spider waits for prey. Ours always have a distinctive zigzag area near the center of the web.
- The orb web is designed to capture flying insects, which get entangled in the sticky silk threads when they fly into it.
- Garden spiders are not aggressive toward humans and are generally harmless. They are more likely to retreat and hide when disturbed rather than bite.
- They are solitary creatures and do not form colonies or social groups.
- Garden spiders often rebuild their webs daily or when they become damaged, expending a significant amount of energy in this process.
- Mating typically occurs in the late summer or early autumn. The male garden spider will approach the female cautiously to avoid being mistaken for prey.
After mating, the female may produce an egg sac containing hundreds of eggs. She will guard and protect the sac until the spiderlings hatch. Just a few days before I posted this one of my wife’s spiders produced an egg sac.
- Garden spiders have a relatively short lifespan, usually living for one season. After laying their eggs, females often die during the winter months, while the spiderlings hatch in the spring to continue the cycle.
- Ecological Importance:
- Garden spiders play a crucial role in controlling insect populations, helping to keep garden pests in check.
- By capturing and consuming various flying insects, they contribute to maintaining a balance in local ecosystems.
In conclusion, garden spiders are fascinating arachnids that create intricate orb webs to catch flying insects. They are beneficial to gardeners and the environment by helping to control insect populations. While they may appear intimidating due to their size and appearance, they are generally harmless to humans and prefer to avoid confrontation.
In closing, simply because I enjoy the poetry generated by ChatGPT:
- In a corner of the garden, ‘neath a leafy tree,
- Lived Lucky the spider, as brave as can be.
- With three legs missing, she’d dance and she’d sing,
- Embracing each challenge that life chose to bring.
- With five legs she’d weave, her web strong and tight,
- Catching dreams and dewdrops, shimmering in light.
- Her spirit unbroken, her heart filled with glee,
- She showed the world strength, in adversity.
- For Lucky knew well, it’s not legs that define,
- But the courage within, that makes one’s soul shine.
- In her garden she thrived, amidst flowers so grand,
- A symbol of hope, in life’s shifting sand.
© 2023, Byron Seastrunk. All rights reserved.