Sunday, July 27, 2014

Eight-Legged Garden Helpers

Don't worry! There aren't any images of spiders in this post.

It's okay. They make me squirm, too.

I've always been a little afraid of spiders. I know they're not really dangerous (most of the scary stuff I've heard about spiders is actually bullshit). Spiders just give me the willies.

Since I bought a house, though, I've been working hard to control my fear. In fact, I'm pretty sure the spiders are all a lot more afraid of me than I am of them. The bigguns just make me ... uncomfortable.

The thing is, there are just so many thousands (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of spiders living with me on my property that I always run into a few or a few dozen when I'm outdoors doing yardwork (or indoors in August while the male house spiders are feeling bold and looking for loooove). So, I feel that I ought to get along with the little buggers and appreciate the pest-control work that they do in the garden.

Today I came across a big ol' web in a sunny shrub bed where wood mulch, rocks and a few applewood logs are haphazardly arranged below my 'Bloodgood' japanese maple. I had to relocate part of a small orb-weaver's web in order to get close enough to photograph this one. I have to do that a lot. Those little orb-weavers are such opportunists. Their beautiful, wheel-shaped webs get in my way all the time. They don't seem to listen when I tell them to go weave elsewhere.

This web stretches a couple of feet from a small terra cotta pot sitting on a rock down into the rarely-used gravel and urbanite path below. It also attaches to a young azalea shrub and some heavy rocks. I think my eight-legged buddy must have been pretty happy with this plot to have invested so much sweat equity in its development. It appears to be the web of a funnel-weaver. I find their webs frequently in the lawn. They look pretty on a dewy morning. This one, though, is so large and contains so many delicate layers of scaffolding that I don't think I've ever seen any others in the yard quite like it.

Here you can see the funnel entrance between the rocks. The nocturnal resident of this web was undoubtedly chillin' in its shady retreat while I was taking real estate photos of its place. I didn't see any tasty buggies tangled in the strands, so I hope somebuggy's feet get caught up this evening when the spider comes out expecting to have a bite.

Grass spiders, garden spiders, house spiders ...
Brown ones, orange ones, green ones ...
As long as they stay out of doors to weave their webs and chomp down insects, we mostly get along okay.

Sometimes, when I am working where there are piles of wood and dead leaves, I accidentally spook the shit out of a very large brown spider and, in its panic, it either freezes out in the open like it's hoping I can't see it if it doesn't move, or it runs for cover as fast as its eight legs can carry it. Unfortunately, it always puts itself right where I don't want it to be.

Like the little, velvety brown spiders that just love hiding under smooth river pebbles. As soon as I uncover their sanctuary, they always run toward my work area instead of somewhere that's actually safe from my spade and my gloved hands. Have you ever tried herding spiders? It is not easy. They do dumb things when they're panicked. And they never listen. Even when they're headed in the proper direction they don't move very fast, so I end up waiting around awhile. I'm just trying to give them a chance to get away, the silly things. I don't like to squish somebody who doesn't mean me any harm.

How do you get along with your eight-legged garden helpers?