If I had a blog, today I would write about the appearance of the orb-weavers. Orb-weavers are the spiders who spin the beautiful spiral, wheel-shaped webs that grace gardens, fields and forests in late summer. Their family name, Araneidae, comes from the myth of goddess Ariadne, the wife of Dionysus, who spun the thread of fate that led Theseus to the center of the Minotaur’s labyrinth and out again.
Although I can’t say I love spiders, I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Arneidae. In my world, the magic threads they spin lead us from summer into fall. They adorn our fence-rows and forests, catching dewdrops to bedeck the mornings with strings of shining diamonds. Almost every year, our shade garden is graced with the presence of a Garden Spider, who we name Charlotte. She will appear as a tiny black and yellow creature who thrives on the moths, flies, and other insects that fall prey to her web. Most of her hunting takes place at night, so each morning she takes down her damaged web and spins another, just in time for the evening influx of pests. Over the months, she will grow to about an inch in length (not counting her legs) and her shiny black and gold skin will become as shiny as patent leather. In late August, she will mate and begin to prepare her egg sac, the nursery where her children will overwinter, their birth coming with the warm days of spring.
As in the book,Charlotte’s Web, the mother garden spider dies with the coming of winter and her spiderlings must fend for themselves from the start. These brave little souls can be seen “ballooning,” on warm afternoons, flying through the air by spinning short strings of web that are caught by the spring breezes. They spend the summer low in the grass or in the deep forest, waiting to grow large enough to tackle larger prey.
The spider I saw this morning was in the barn lot, so Charlotte is yet to arrive, but one day soon I’ll open the front door and her lovely handwork will adorn the garden walk. I am waiting, love, waiting for your your guidance on the path to another beautiful fall.