20 October 2013

Adventurous Spiders

Perhaps it's a bit late for a spider post. The autumn web building phase is coming to an end, but last week I got entangled in one slung across the front door so I think it's not too late to revisit these seasonal monsters.

Actually it was a mildly amusing story: the web and its fat-bodied maker were very big.  I shouldn't have missed it, but I was fumbling with car keys and composing the shopping list and suddenly rebounded of a long spoke thread which extended from the porch down to a shrub right across the doorway. Having frantically checked there were no spiders in my hair I recovered my composure and spent a minute, like a suburban David Attenborough, studying the spider finish making her web. [btw can you name a woman naturalist that I could have used there? Kate Humble doesn't count] Then I carefully ducked under the construction and trundled on my way, reminding myself to remember to duck back under when I got home again. Sadly when I got back from trawling the aisles of Tesco to gather food for the now somewhat depleted family the lady and her web had gone ... but the post had been delivered ... the postman must have blundered through.

Which is funny because the Daily Mail recently reported a postman refusing to deliver a letter because a spider was in the way,

 He'd left a note and took the letter back to the debot. The next day another postie (who added the word 'What!!' to the envelope) was brave enough to get past.

Obviously Mancunian postman are made of tougher stuff. Or just oblivious to the world around them.

On the subject of webs, do you remember the spiders who went into space in the 1970's? I bet Blue Peter did a report on them.

Two common garden spiders called Arabella and Anita were given a fly to eat then put into tiny cannisters and launched into orbit. The idea was to see how zero gravity affected web building. The answer was it didn't. They built perfectly normal shaped webs. Unfortunately although the astronauts fed them beef they both died of dehydration. Which I would say is an interesting outcome. Who knew spiders needed to drink?

I'm not sure if this is Arabella or Anita

Another web-based experiment produced more worrying outcomes.

In the 1990s they fed spiders different drugs and looked at the shape of webs the poor spaced out spiders made.

As you can see, we really should cut back on our cafe-going habit. Caffeine appears to be more lethal than any other drug. Sally recently suggested I take up smoking, perhaps I will take her advice and give marijuana a try. ;-)

And another spider web anecote ... if you want to attract a spider out of hiding the best method is to vibrate an electric toothbrush on the web.  The man who discovered it finished his report with some useful advice:

The sonic electric toothbrush tested was a Colgate 360o Surround, which vibrates 20,000 times a minute (333 Hz) and runs on a replaceable AAA battery. Boots sell this model for £4.09 but they are often on offer at £2.79 – a bargain. Do not be tempted by cheaper vibrating toothbrushes from pound shops (e.g. DR. Fresh Velocity), they do not work nearly as well.