Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spider Tree

We drove into the next town for an appointment and on the way home I found another spider tree. I have seen three now. These are trees that are covered in large garden spiders, huge webs, egg sacs held in place with carefully spun webs.

It was raining softly when I got out of the truck. I looked down at my skirt and sandals and knew I was making a mistake, but I wanted those pictures! The tree is so perfect--old, gnarled, colorful and filled with spiders. It grows beside a huge field filled with grasses, and grasshoppers! Perfect for garden spiders. Oddly enough, the grasshoppers seem to line up on the tree branches as if they're waiting to become the next meal for one of eight spiders I counted on this particular tree.

As I stood in the rain taking pictures, I suddenly felt a shooting pain in my toes, then my feet and ankles. I looked down and brushed at my feet, but I couldn't see anything. I suspect it was baby red ants. Within minutes, my feet, ankles and legs were covered with blisters. They had actually taken chunks of skin from my feet.

And still I stayed, snapping pictures. I just didn't want to miss the opportunity. It was so painful it brought tears to my eyes. I pulled up my skirt and tied it, hoping the ants wouldn't climb up the hem. I couldn't believe how many egg sacs were tied onto this tree. Two of the spiders were wrapping grasshoppers for future meals, their bright yellow still showing through the spider's tight web. It's kind of gross, but the spider actually injects the grasshopper with venom and its insides turn to liquid, which the spider then ingests.

I feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for these grasshoppers. I think they are lovely with their bright yellow patterns and soft, gentle faces. On the other hand, there are so many of them that when I walked back to the car they were actually smacking into me as they flew through the air. These garden spiders play a very important role in controlling garden pests, even if it is a bit disgusting to think about!

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