The End of the Line

Each fall morning as we leave our house to drive to school and the Museum, my daughter pushes me out of the door first. Somewhere along the line she has acquired a fear of spiders and a distinct aversion to their webs (this is very common aversion). In the fall there’s lots of spider webs about, several on my back porch. If I go out the door first my passage tends to clear a path for her, I wipe out all the webs as I go. I assure her that this won’t last long. Most, if not all, of the spiders will die with the first frost.

As we walked out the door Monday morning something was different. The night before it had gotten quite chilly. The temperatures never got to freezing but apparently it was cold enough to kill the spiders, at least the ones that insisted on building webs and staying within those webs throughout the night.

An orb weaver hanging motionless in its web.

Lack of food may also have contributed to their demise, the cold nights simply pushing them over the edge. I noticed that several webs had not been worked on for nearly a week, the spiders huddled under a gutter, a rolled leaf, or somewhere else out of the rain that had been falling for much of the previous week. You need a web to capture insects. You need insects to survive.

Whatever the ultimate cause of their quietus, there are now fewer spiders around than there were just a few days ago.

A Black and Yellow Argiope Spider past its expiration date hanging by threads of silk.

If this is a bit depressing to you, those of you who actually like spiders, all is not lost. Before departing this world, the spiders left something behind, egg cases.

The egg case of a Black and Yellow Argiope.

I’m told that there may be anywhere from 300 to 1400 eggs in each egg case. That’s a lot of little spiders. Of course, not all of them will make it through the winter, spring, or next summer to build their webs on our back porches or across our favorite hiking trails next year. I’m confident though, that enough of them will survive to keep you alert as you walk out the door each fall morning or hike along a woodland path.

2 responses to The End of the Line

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    Karen Kary says:

    Thanks so much for your blogs! Especially about spiders. I always wondered what kind of spiders these were and which spiders made those egg sacs. Keep up the blogs!
    Karen and Emily

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