Saturday, January 16, 2010

Garden webmasters

This is Andrew, and he has his own little spot in the garden where I don't get in his way, and he doesn't get in mine, either. We get on fine. I'd never dare call him Andy, as his formal name is the Saint Andrew's Cross Spider, so calling him Andrew seems to be the right level of familiarity. (But of course this could actually be Andrea, for all I know about spider sexing.)

The Saint Andrew's Cross Spider has a clever method of scaring off potential predators by weaving extra 'legs' of spider web material and standing on the web in a way that makes it look like a spider twice its size. Andrew/Andrea measures about 3cm on the diagonal, from leg-tip to leg-tip and makes his living helping to keep garden insect numbers down.

I don't know the species of spider which created this tiny little web in part of my murraya hedge, but I was amazed by its tiny size and basket-like construction. The whole web is about 1cm across (ie, half an inch). (Update below, I've solved the mystery!)

UPDATE! After doing this blog post in the morning, the tiny web mystery was solved later in the evening. The net belongs to the Net Casting Spider. This amazing spider holds its net in its 'hands' and as soon as a customer comes along, it wraps it up in its net. The net and the spider were gone this morning, so I presume its strategy worked well, yet again.

Stupidly, in the morning I poked a biro tip into the photo to give some sense of the net casting spider web's tinyness and managed to bump it out of shape. I am sure that all spiders see us humans as dopey, blundering clods. Of course we don't always have the best opinion of them, either, but that's mostly due to those unpleasant entanglements at night or on early mornings. Pam and I have developed a handy little way of coping with our various garden webmasters.

Here's the main alleyway for spiders at my place: the three and a bit metres from the front gate to the front door, edged on both sides by hedges. The St Andrew's Cross Spider builds its web along the line of the hedges on the left, and present no problems for us, and we don't bother it (although there is an outside chance that our tossed-in morning newspaper delivery could ruin Andrew's day, but that hasn't happened yet this year.) However, there are some other spiders who simply cannot learn that spinning a web across the path, between the hedges, is simply NOT ON! And so they're repeat offenders, always at night of course, building webs across the pathway.

The solution is simple: a good supply of sticks, at both ends of the path (fortunately our street tree, a eucalyptus, provides a constant source of sticks). Waving the stick before you as you proceed up the path does make you look like a weirdo, but it works, and as it's night time you rarely (but not never!) get caught waving the magic wand. I wish the other spiders were more like Andrew, but I have at least learned that, like human society, the society of spidery garden webmasters has its fair share of dummies who'll just never learn.


robble said...

i remember seeing my dad doing a weird dance at night when he went to put out the garbage bins. But it was because he would always accidentally walk into loads of spiders webs down the end of the house and he was trying to get untangled from them!

Evelyn Howard said...

Hi Jamie, the first pic is fantastic - Great details on Andy. Not sure if you heard this before - the Chinese believe that a house with spiders (within reason, I suppose) is good. No spiders = presence of not-so-good spirits (which scare spiders away...). When a Chinese person seeks to buy a new home, they'll check for spiders/webs... Had a nice weekend at a yoga retreat :). Thanks for visiting my blog - hope you had a nice weekend too. Evelyn