A Buggy Time of Year


What on earth are you looking at? Good question. I spent all weekend trying to photograph the garden spider in its web (and its web).

It’s a lovely black, yellow and green spider that is hanging in its web by the black pot. You’re a better person than I am if you can spot it in the photo.

As I was scouring my 15 photos, trying to decide which one might look like something at least, I did see something that I completely overlooked IRL, as the kids say.

I knew that my parsley was getting eaten but we have had so many rabbits this year I just assumed it was rabbits. Silly me.

In the photo, I saw the real culprit and I was thrilled: there are swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on the parsley. Yay! I guess they feel safe nestled in there in among the other herbs. But wow, who would have expected the butterflies to find the parsley there?

A Lucky Spider?

Once again, I have a spider hanging beneath the backsplash of my kitchen sink. This happened 2 years ago and the spider was there from October until nearly April, I believe.

It’s hard  to believe, but I was once a huge arachnaphobe.  All you had to do was to mention the word “spider” and it would raise goose bumps on my arms.

But since I became a gardener–and a serious organic gardener at that–I know that spiders are the good guys in the garden. So I definitely always leave them alone outside.

I also tend to leave them alone in the house so long as I know where they are. I have a few exceptions to that rule. No spiders in the bedroom–but we tend to have few of those anyway, thank goodness.

And of course, I always give my “house” spiders a firm talking to. I tell them that so long as I know where they are and they are not in a spot where they are bothering me, they can stay. If, for some reason, that changes, I will have to squash them like a bug.

And most of the spiders behave nicely. Every so often, one runs across the stove or something while I am cooking and sadly, that one has to go. But those are very few and far between.

They say that spiders can even hear the vibrations from our feet when we walk into a room. I don’t doubt that. And if that’s so, why can’t they “hear” my little lecture?

All I know is that I have very little trouble with “misbehaving” spiders. And that suits me just fine!


Wordless Wednesday–the Hitch Hiker

hitch hiking spider

It’s been an amazing year for spiders too. Again, the lack of rain has probably helped them keep their webs intact. I got into my car one morning after it was parked under some maples and didn’t notice anything amiss. As I backed around into the sun, I saw this little guy (gal?) scrambling to wrap up its web.

I knew darn well that wasn’t going to happen before I got down my driveway and out onto the street so I drove as gently as I could. Needless to say, it rolled or blew into my windshield wiper well so it was protected from the wind. I looked for it when I arrived at work but didn’t see it.

Perhaps when I come out of work–where I also park under maples–it and its web will be gone.

The Kitchen Spider

Kitchen spider

This is a spider that’s been hanging out in my kitchen, behind the sink, for about a month or so.

You can see that despite its size, it’s quite the hunter. It’s got some sort of roly-poly in its web, and beneath the web are all manner of tiny bugs, some with wings. When I get too disgusted, I sweep them all up.

This doesn’t seem to be one of the spiders that wraps the bugs up and stores them for future consumption. I have one of those on my porch so I can see the difference.

I live with a good number of spiders–actually, everyone does, supposedly, unless you’re using bug killers around the home. If you’re living with spiders, though, you can see that they can be pretty efficient bug killers on their own.

And yes, there is the argument that spiders bite and spider bites can cause all sorts of harm. But for the most part, the few biting spiders that we have do NOT hang around out in the open like this–that’s the trouble. They lurk in dark places which is how they get nicknames like recluse.

So since my house is a known spider habitat I just take precautions. I shake out everything before I put it on. I bang my shoes together before I put my feet into them. And I leave little guys like this alone to tidy up.

One other myth debunked. For the most part, house spiders are pretty much just that. They like to live indoors and they are found in kitchens and bathrooms a lot because those are reliable water sources. So no need to put them outside. Their habitat is the house.

Hurricane Aftermath

All in all, this could have been a lot worse.  Yes, it’s a mess to sweep up but thankfully, this time, we had no real damage, unlike so many of our neighbors.  Perhaps, for now, our vulnerable trees have come down–for now.

Our neighbor a few houses away wasn’t so lucky.  One of his maples–same vintage as ours–splintered and blocked our street for a while.  Here’s a view of the aftermath.

It looks a little more dramatic when you see more of what was left on the ground.

You can just see the beginnings of heartwood rot in the larger branches but it shows up more clearly in the smaller ones.  The tree was doomed–which was not outwardly visible.

Heartwood rot is that dark brownish black irregular mark in the middle of the trunk on the right.  It is exactly what it sounds like–the “rotting” of the “heart wood”  or the structural center of the tree.  Once  a tree has that, it pretty much needs to come down because it will come down in a storm.

It is almost undetectable with the naked eye.  Arborists can do tests for it but they rarely do.

Back on our property, these are they size and types of branches that came down for us–not a terrible clean-up by any means.And considering almost 700,000 in our state are without power, we are very lucky to be one of the ones with it!

While I was taking the pots back out of the garage, this little guy (actually, she’s not so little!) crawled out of one of them and ran up my arm.  Fortunately for her, and for the orchids I was carrying, I was near enough to the recycling container so I could set the plants down and shake her off.  There was a time when I was so arachnaphobic that I would have dropped everything and screamed my fool head off.  It took quite a lot not to do that today, actually–but I am fond of these large, bug eating spiders so I tried to hold it all together–and she even posed sort nicely for me.

So we are working on getting back to normal–I know so many others are far from normal at this point.  My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Garden Spiders Re-Visited

According to all the spider web sites, we do not have these types of spiders in Connecticut.  Oh really?

The other night I was working on the computer in my den and something caught my eye.  I looked up to see this monster swinging wildly back and forth across the window frame, building her web.  It took her two nights to get her web situated–and every night at dusk, she swings into view from somewhere, swings up and down a bit, perhaps making repairs from the day,and then settles into the middle.

This is a cross spider, a type of european garden orb weaver–and my, can she build a large web!  Many of these spiders start out quite small and then get progressively larger as the season goes on–but it is unusual to see one this large this early in the season.  They do not over-winter here.

Her web is across most of the side window of a bay window with two casement side windows.  The window is probably at least 3′ tall by 18″ wide so we’re talking a serious web here!

Most of my other cross spiders are a more reasonable size–and this year they are just everywhere in the yard.  Probably the mild winter led to more eggs surviving to hatch.  By the end of the summer–and well into autumn if we have a mild autumn–some of them will reach her size, I have no doubt.

And I am not just being “pro-female” when I refer to spiders as “shes.”  In spiders, the females are always larger and more colorful–and quite often, after mating, the male is eaten!  So most often the colorful spiders I feature are the females!

One of the reasons I enjoy these spiders (the small ones anyway.  When I was a kid we called these large ones “Mongol” spiders for some reason–I still do colloquially) is that the little ones try to make themselves seem big to predators (and me if I’m near) by bouncing up and down in their webs so fast that all you see it’s a blur.  It’s a really funny effect–I didn’t know what it was the first time I saw it.

Here’s another guy that doesn’t like to pose–the grass spider.  This is a spider known as a funnel web weaver.  You can’t really see any of the funnels in these webs–they look more like sheets in the webs this spider has.  As summer goes on, the funnels usually get more pronounced.  And then again, this isn’t the optimal spot for a funnel.

These spiders can also get quite large–almost as large as a golf ball (including their legs).  They also get a bit aggressive if challenged, sometimes standing on the hind pairs of legs.  But they are harmless and a”good” bug, keeping the lawn and stone wall free of moths and other insects.