A good week for spiders

Spiders portend good luck according to my dream-guide friend. I've had lots of luck finding and photographing spiders this week. Maybe that's because I read Gerald McDermott's Anansi the Spider to the extended-day children. When Anansi got in a predicament, his six children worked together, each using a special ability, to extricate their father. And, the moon ended up in the sky, which is good!

Spiders' special ability to spin webs probably inspired human inventions of spinning, weaving, knots, and nets. Spiders certainly inspired myths and legends. Every time I spy a dewy web sparkling in the sunlight I feel transported to Aladdin's cave of jewels.

Was Helen Augusta Blanchard, the inventor of the zigzag sewing machine (1873), inspired by spider webs? Alas, there are so many things it would be interesting to learn, and so little time. The zigzag pattern appeared in most of my lucky spider webs this week. The zigzag is called a Stabilimenta, but stabilization is not thought to be its purpose.

Thanks to the macro function on my little Canon camera, the designs on spiders' bodies have been revealed. Each spider seems like a design for a Persian rug or Navajo blanket. The markings are amazingly intricate whether the spider is the size of a pencil lead, or the size of my thumb.

Spider education in my childhood was limited. Nancy Drew's cases with black widow spiders in old attics fueled scary slumber party stories. Camp Fire Girl warnings about brown recluse "fiddle-back" spiders taught me to shake out any shoe that hadn't been worn for awhile and to be very wary of violins. Lazy summer evenings sprawled on the warm concrete driveway with the other neighborhood kids included building obstacles for Daddy-Long-Legs between hopscotch and jacks. We didn't learn anything about the beneficial spiders in nature.

I'm including a photo of the biggest spider I ever saw outside of a "bug zoo". It was among the cattails at the bottom of the Oak Point Preserve pond. Its leg span was the size of my hand. And instead of feeling arachnophobic, I was cheering this Argiope girl's capture of a large grasshopper for her lunch. I've known lots of red-blooded grown-up American males who were mighty scared of spiders. Me, I just get the heebie-jeebies from grasshoppers.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

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