Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spiders and Their Incredible Webs

Spider webs are a work of art - magnificent engineering feats performed before our eyes by their determined creators. If a spider web is broken, it will be rebuilt within hours to exacting specifications. Spider webs in your garden should be celebrated, not vilified. Spiders are a first line of attack against the very creatures who would suck the life from your vegetables and flowers. Yet, look how they are maligned! Leave them alone and they will repay you many times over.

Spiders consume vast amount of aphids, flies, mosquitoes, earwigs, sow bugs, whiteflies, and any other insect foolish, or careless, enough to step into their web, including other spiders! Some spiders, such as daddy long legs do not build webs, but spend their days running around on the ground searching under leaves and sticks for their prey. One must be especially careful of daddy long legs, for contrary to popular belief, their legs do not grow back if removed and to cripple these gentle guardians of your garden is a great sadness. Please teach children to be kind to all living creatures.

Very few spiders are poisonous and those that are tend to be very shy. They do not seek out hands or feet to bite and will only bite when startled or unable to avoid contact. Poisonous spiders live in seclusion, preferring to be as far away from humans as possible. The one exception to that might be the hobo spider, which builds a sticky funnel-type nest on, or close to, the ground. Its nest does not in any way resemble the spider webs you see strung about your garden; however, there are other spiders that also build funnel nests so if you see that type of nest, it is most unlikely that it will belong to a hobo. In all my years of gardening, I have seen this spider only once. It is to be avoided as it can have a painful and debilitating bite, but panic is not the proper course to follow and please do not spray as these spiders most generally are taken care of by other predators in the garden and spraying almost always leads to an increase in the number of hobo spiders. Bear in mind that because a spider is big, it does not follow that it is a hobo spider, most likely it is totally harmless. Spiders tend to look very much alike, requiring an expert to actually determine what is or is not a hobo.

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