The prairie plantings and uplands at Crossroads are gorgeous this time of year, and at dawn, they resemble an Impressionist painting, the gold, pink and lavender blossoms muted by morning mist and sparkling with dew drops on each gossamer strand of countless spider webs.
Webs are traps. Insects get stuck because the silken strands are sticky. Occasionally, insects will struggle and break out of a web, leaving a gaping hole—but that is unlikely. The silk is elastic so it tends to stretch instead of breaking. The hapless insects that fly into a web almost always become the spider’s next meal.
Still, after a few days, a web gets worn out. After being crashed into and pulled, the strands lose their elasticity, sort of like the waistband of an old pair of sweat pants.
And the sticky stuff? Rain and that beautiful morning dew wash it off the web. When weather is dry, dust coats the sticky stuff. Have you ever tried to use a dirty piece of tape? Not very sticky.
Consequently, many spiders eat their webs. Some species just eat the sticky spiral parts of the web, while others eat the entire thing and start from scratch every day. In species which make an orb web (the pretty round ones), it’s likely that the spiders eat and respin their webs every day. The silk is quickly digested and used again, a perfect natural recycling.
To make an orb web, a spider builds a “bridge.” It sits on a solid object such as a twig and releases a stick thread which catches on a nearby object. Once the bridge is made, the spider walks across it several times, reinforcing it with additional silk.
From one ead of the bridge, the spider (which is trailing silk) falls to a lower twig that will serve as an anchor. Next, it climbs back and then drops down from the other eand of the bridet so that Y-shaped frame for the spokes of the web.
Using the spokes for support, the spider spins a temporary spiral using dry non-sticky strands. Using this spiral as a work platform, it spins the sticky spiral web. The spider eats the temporary threads. Finally, it returns to the center of the completed web and, with oily legs touching the signal threads, waits for the vibrations that announce meal time.
This Friday, August 18, Crossroads will host the Educators Workshop on Climate Change in the Collins Learning Center. Crossroads Summer Family Programs continue at 10:00 on Monday through Thursday in the Collins Learning Center. Door County residents and visitors of all ages–with or without families –are welcome at these free, one hour presentations, which were made possible with a generous grant from the MMG Foundation.
In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial, The Door County Historical Society, Door County Libraries and Crossroads are collaborating to host the Wisconsin Historical Society “Wisconsin’s John Muir” Exhibit from August 30 till Sunday, September 11. The exhibit will be housed in the Vignes School in the Heritage Village at Big Creek and in the Lower Level Learning Space in the Collins Learning Center. We will post the full schedule of activities later, but know that a limited supply of John Muir’s book The Story of My Boyhood and Youth are available, free of charge, at the Sturgeon Bay Branch of the Door County Library. Learn about Muir’s time in Wisconsin and a great deal about nature as well.