Spider Webs are Visible on Foggy Mornings
Les Harrison is the Wakulla County Extension Director
The recent foggy mornings reveal some interesting facts and trends in Wakulla County. The moisture is appreciated by anyone attempting to propagate plants, but the dampness comes at the price of lower visibility.
Drivers are usually on a heightened state of vigilance with the reduced ability to see into the distance. Sometimes the cool, moist air will intensify the ardor of daring drives, which increases the probability of an unintended collision.
Oddly enough, the sight limiting fog improves the chances of avoiding the accidental contact with a common, but often unseen, Wakulla County structure. Spider webs, usually hidden in plain sight, quickly become visible as the humid air condenses on the silk strands.
It is worth noting not all spiders are prolific web builders. Instead, they prefer lying in wait for a hapless insect, small amphibian or reptile to wander by and satisfy their nutritional needs.
Their silk production is used as a means of hiding and for egg protection. The silk is just as sticky as that of web builders.
Most notable among these local ambush predators is the wolf spider. It utilized a burrow to obscure its presence while waiting for its next meal.
There are local spiders which used webs for procuring victims, and sometimes much more. The two most obvious web structures are orbs and tangle, which are sometime called cobwebs.
Orb webs are shaped as the term indicates. The spiral strands of silk form an aerial net for capturing any luckless insect which happens to be flying on precisely the wrong heading.
These webs will also entangle anyone who, on a fogless day, wanders into the trap. The sensation of invisible filaments crawling across one’s arms or face is almost immediate.
Flailing arms and a quick retreat are usually the reaction to the unplanned intrusion into the arachnid’s lunchroom. The spiders usually have the sense and good graces to retreat to safety as far away as possible from the structure’s wrecker.
The tensile strength of the spider’s silk is often surprising to the uninitiated. It is alleged to be stronger than steel of a similar diameter.
People in previous centuries have found several used for spider webs, even beyond decorations for Halloween and haunted houses. One use was as a form of gauze to close wounds and stop bleeding.
Wakulla County is home to the Golden Orb spider which is capable of producing webs multiple feet across. Suspended above the forest floor, this spider is easily camouflaged against the irregular patterns of leaves and twigs.
Another native orb weaver is the Spiny Orb Weaver, sometime locally called the Crab spider. True to its common name, it appears similar to the semi-terrestrial land crabs found on the coast.
Spiders producing tangle webs are here, too. In addition to trapping insects, these webs are used as nesting site and nurseries for the next generation.
The tangle webs are most frequently seen is old building. There they capture and hold dust, and have the appearance of a grey cloud.
Crashing into a spider’s web can be a startling experience, and bring to mind all the worst images of spiders. At least it will not raise one’s car insurance rates.
Photo caption: Foggy mornings reveal the large number of web building spiders in Wakulla County. Once the fog dissipates, the webs are difficult to see.