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Careful demolition


by Richard Jones

The orb webs of the garden spider, Araneus diadematus are much in evidence as the nights get cooler, especially in the morning when their dew- or rain-covered tracery is revealed all over the bushes.


Richard JonesThe orb webs of the garden spider, Araneus diadematus are much in evidence as the nights get cooler, especially in the morning when their dew- or rain-covered tracery is revealed all over the bushes.

It's fascinating to watch them being created first thing in the day, particularly the finishing spiral as the spider winds itself round and round the radiating spokes, welding each joint with a rhythmic dab of its abdomen. It's even more interesting to see a web being deconstructed, and I had the perfect opportunity a couple of days ago when a web across one of the kitchen windows had obviously reached the end of its useful life. Although created spirally, it was dismantled by segment. The spider walked down each spoke, from the centre, cutting the cross strands with its claws. It carefully gathered the silk, which seemed to just vanish. Whether this was because it scrunched up so tightly, or the spider was eating it, I could not see.

Although I'd known that spiders do eat the silk, (it's too valuable a protein resource to waste after all), I could not quite see how the spider was manipulating it in its jaws. When the spider reached the web's perimeter, it paused for a moment, making some final adjustment, then cut the last strand and bobbed violently back to a central vertical strand, suddenly pulled taut like the string of a bow. All the while it was walking diagonally down one of the radii, cutting loose the webbing. It had obviously been carefully spinning out a safety line back to the centre of the web and also adjusting another line down to an anchor point on the windowsill below. I watched, amazed, for ages, until all that was left was a single horizontal tightrope from window hinge to mullion.



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