nature’s architect

This morning, I spent some time searching for funnel webs in the garden. I soon came upon this beautiful construct among the rhubarb leaves. It seems that the spider decided to take advantage of a hollow seed stem that I had cut away earlier this summer.

I can’t help but think of how such spiders must come wandering along, size up a situation, and then go to work designing a structure that will work within the given landscape. We see a lot of emphasis on site evaluation in modern architecture, but spiders have been way ahead of us on this count for quite some time.

This type of web is built by spiders belonging to the Agelenidae family. I’ve written about them before, here and here. Late summer seems to be a good time of year to search for webs among rose bushes, rhubarb, or other places which can support a fairly sturdy web. The spider hides in a refuge at the bottom of the funnel — in this case, I could see it hiding down inside the hollow stem of the rhubarb. When it feels the vibration of insects on the sloping funnel of the web, it can race up out of the refuge at lightning speed to capture its prey. However, these are very shy spiders and generally difficult to observe for more than a second or two as they will retreat to their refuge at the slightest hint of danger.

On other matters, if things seem unusually quiet around my blog this week, I’m just a little short on spare time at the moment. However, there are still a few Nova Scotia photos that I’d like to share, so I’ll probably get back to them tomorrow.

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7 Responses to “nature’s architect”

  1. Dave Says:

    Your post is very timely. This morning I walked past a hedge of dwarf lilacs that must have had a couple dozen webs of similar construction. All the webs had “funnels” tucked deeper into the shubbery. I checked out a few of them, but only saw one the spiders waiting near the base of its funnel.

  2. robin andrea Says:

    We’ve been noticing spiderwebs in the mornings lately, when the light is just right. None are quite as elaborate or funnelshaped as this one, as far as we’ve seen. We do have a spider that is living in the sink in the workshop. It’s HUGE. Really quite a giant-sized thing. I plan to photograph it, but the light out there is so bad, and it’s in a dark corner.

  3. Wayne Says:

    Bev – I’ve had a lot of fun with funnel web spiders this year. For a time they were everywhere in the woods. While that’s diminished, they continue to produce funnels that lead into dark crevices between rocks in the rock walls shoring up the terraces. And the funnels they spin taking advantage of the architecture of our house, the porch, the windows, abound. I’ve left them undisturbed for the most part.

    As you say, they are very difficult to photograph. Even the webs are hard, and yours is a very good one. But they are, as you say, again, lightning fast in responding to a small disturbance, and equally fast in retreating into their lairs. They are indeed very shy, large spiders.

    I can’t begin to estimate the number of unsatisfactory photos I’ve tried to make of one before it gets wind of my presence and disappears quickly.

  4. bev Says:

    Dave – This is definitely the time of year to see funnel webs. These spiders are so incredibly shy that I always feel lucky if I get a glimpse of them before they hide.

    Robin – Yes, photograph that big spider! I would like to see it whenever you do.

    Wayne – I think it’s so neat how these spiders build webs to suit the location. Very clever! And yes, they’re so difficult to photograph. Yesterday, I saw the spider in the above web for just a fleeting moment as I passed by the rhubarb plants. It was quite clear that she saw me and instantly fled down into the hollow rhubarb stalk. I could see here sitting far down inside looking up at me. I’ve only gotten a few good photos of these — the mating pair in one of the above linked posts, and the one that seem torpid in the first post. The best time to photograph these around here is when the weather starts to chill off in late September. If you get out in the morning before the air warms up, there’s some chance of seeing one. Down where you are, that opportunity may not exist.

  5. Cathy Wilson Says:

    I am loving spiders. Thanks, Bev :0)

    Location, location, location. Spiders get it right.

    Your pictures are incredible. I’ve successfully captured only a single pix of one of these. The rest skedaddled as I strained to get that funnel in focus. I know I should know this, but . . . are you using manual settings in order to get greater depth of field?

  6. bev Says:

    Cathy – It’s good to hear that you’re enjoying spiders these days. They really are fascinating creatures – in appearance, but especially in behaviour. Regarding my cameras, no, I use auto settings as I like to focus my attention mainly on the insects without thinking too much about camera settings. I depend a lot of camera angle when I shoot — certain angles or ways of tilting a camera slightly will change the degree of sharpness of the subject and the background. This is something that is, in part, based on how I think of perspective — as an artist — but also from knowing how my camera will respond in a lot of different situations. I believe that the best way to get good at working with digital cameras is to just go out and shoot lots of photos. By now, I have shot a few hundred thousande insect photos, so I really don’t think much about my cameras when shooting. Hope some of that helps!

  7. Larry Ayers Says:

    I recently photographed a funnel web which radiated from a rotted-out knothole in a young oak tree. Like you, I am intrigued by the judgment, the arachnid “reasoning”, which enabled this spider to construct such a superbly-engineered snare.

    I enjoy watching and photographing insects, but spiders seem to have a bit more real intelligence, in contrast to the instinctually mechanical actions of insects.

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