Editorial by Kay Whatley
North Carolina’s long list of creepy, crawly, biting things may be daunting. One group of crawlies which are at their peak during August and the Fall are Orb-weaver spiders. Leave your porch light on at night, and you may see one building its oval-shaped web to catch the bugs your light draws.
Now, I appreciate that spiders have a job to do — eating mosquitoes and other bugs that find their way into webs. I do not like being close to spiders, though. Because they make me shudder, I wanted to take the time to share the little bit that I know about these orb-weavers. A little bit of education, as it were.
If it’s August or September, there will be webs! These spinning artists appear on their showy webs more often as summer is fading, and build webs that may be several feet wide. The webs might be on your porch (especially if lights are on at night), between bushes or reeds, hanging from outdoor buildings, or along the tree line. If you’re walking outside, watch your path to avoid walking right into a spider-occupied web. My family and I have watched them weave some nights. The webs can be beautiful, and are certainly intricate. They are the wheel-and-spoke type webs imagined on most Halloween decorations.
While I avoid spiders in general, I did once walk into a web face-first. The spider bumped my forehead. As I recoiled, it quickly climbed its web to the house roof almost as if it was recoiling too! It did not bite, and I later learned that they are not a very aggressive spider. If it had been an aggressive type of spider, likely I would have been bitten. So, the orb-weavers aren’t out to get you. This is outlined on this page, which also says that they are not toxic to we humans. (Um, that doesn’t mean you should try to hold them, poke them, or play with them! They can bite!)
The orb-weavers take down their webs in the morning. A large web that stops you in your tracks at 8am may be completely taken down by 10am.
They are great hiders! If you’re doing yard work or working along a building, you may find yourself staring right at one — hiding under the eaves, tucked under a dead leaf on a tree branch, or scuttling along a tall weed. In the photo below, there is a spider sitting (do they sit?) underneath the second dead leaf. Even zooming in, only its legs can be discerned, though the whole body was there. You can imagine how something so hidden might surprise you as you’re trimming bushes, or weed whacking.
Charlotte, of Charlotte’s Web, was a type of orb-weaver. Maybe mentioning that could calm children’s (and adults’) fears a bit. Don’t expect them to weave words, though they are artists.
Below is a short [shaky] video of an orb-weaver taking down the part of its web near Zebulon, North Carolina (Franklin County). Apologies for the video quality, but being that close to it was, well, uncomfortable for me. I’d rather admire the webs from afar!
There you have it! A person who is afraid of spiders, suggesting that these orb-weavers be admired — from afar — rather than harmed. Hopefully knowing a little bit about these crawlies will help you to enjoy their webs more and recoil from them less.
Ed. Note: This is an update of an article published August 17, 2016 in The Grey Area News. Video and 1 photo replaced.