And Along Came The Spiders

Last year I wrote a “backyard” article about why, each year, people start noticing spiders in August and September. No, it’s not because spiders invented the worldwide web!

Published October 4, 2012 4:46 PM
3 min read

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Last year I wrote a “backyard” article about why, each year, people start noticing spiders in August and September. No, it’s not because spiders invented the worldwide web!


By Bill Lawyer  

 

Last year I wrote a “backyard” article about why, each year, people start noticing spiders in August and September. No, it’s not because spiders invented the worldwide web!

 

We notice them because the lifestyles of the hundreds of species of orb-weaving spiders native to Rye are closely attuned to our climate and latitude.

 

As the spring heats up into the months of June and July, spider eggs that were laid the previous year or in the early spring hatch, and out come millions of young spiders, looking to make their way in the world.

 

Since most of the spiders we see around Rye are orb-weavers, we can’t help but bump into their webs. That’s because they build in areas where flying insects can be found. I’ve found elaborate webs running from my car to the garage wall and the roof of my side porch. Built all in one night!

 

Their goal is to catch the prey they need to mate and have babies, so that the cycle of life can continue for another year.

 

Like many species of plants and animals, spider populations vary in size from year to year, depending on a variety of factors. This year seems to have yielded a “bumper crop” of spiders out their doing there thing.

 

But why? Weather is the most obvious factor. If there’s a cold, rainy summer, spiders will have fewer insects to prey upon, and they’ll have to spend more time and energy rebuilding webs that are damaged by wind and rain.

 

This year, we’ve had a hot and fairly dry summer. May and June were particularly warm. This resulted in ideal web building conditions, and lots of prey to trap and drain (spiders feed by sucking the liquids out of their captives). The venom in spiders is used to immobilize insects until the time is ripe to feast upon them.

 

Ted Gilman, naturalist at the Audubon Center of Greenwich, is an expert on the subject of local spiders. He even does slide programs about them. He agrees that weather is important, and notes that the mild winter we had also contributed to a greater survival rate of spider eggs laid in the fall.

 

Michael Raupp, a professor with the University of Maryland Department of Entomology, explained further on the Accu-Weather website: “The weather has been unusually warm this year. The warmer temperatures have allowed flying insects to produce more generations.”

 

Other factors that could be at work include a decline in spider predators, reduced use of pesticides, and increased wildlife habitats in backyards.

 

Rye residents have shown increased interest in sustainable lawn and garden care, which means more reliance on critters such as spiders to keep the backyard food chain in balance.

 

Birds are one of the main predators upon orb-weaving spiders – particularly those that are active at night. Gilman says that even diurnal birds such as warblers will forage in the bushes and crevices to find spiders where they “hide out” during the daytime.

 

So the “take-away” from all this is that people should be patient and adopt a “live and let live” approach. Look before you walk around your yard, doorways, and outdoor lights. Spiders aren’t out to get people, and by mid-October we’ll probably have had a frost or two, which will reduce the adult spider population drastically.

 

But their eggs will be around to start things over again in the spring – right in our backyards.



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