The end of summer begins what I think of as the Orb Weaver Season. It’s the time of year with the highest concentration of adult Orb Weaver spiders building their webs across the walking trails in the woods. Orb webs are built in the classic spider web pattern of crossed support webs holding a single strand that spirals out from the intersection of the supports. This is the pattern most likely to be produced if someone is asked to draw a spider web.
The creator of the web often sits near its center awaiting the capture of some passing insect. Several species of Orb Weavers are currently active. All are fascinating and many are beautiful.
A frightened spider will leave the web and seek refuge at the point at which a support strand is anchored.
A spider in hiding is usually easier to view than one in the web. This colorful creature is an Arrow-shaped Micrathena, Micrathena sagittata.
Hikers most often discover Orb Weavers after walking through a web. It’s hard to travel very far through the woods without stumbling through a few webs. If you’re paying attention and the angle of sunlight is just right, you can catch a glimpse of the web before making contact.
This is what you typically see of a web that is right in front of your face. It’s interesting that the spiders are so often situated at the height of an average human face. A web in that location is just above the height of the second tallest animal moving through the woods. That would be the Whitetail Deer and when walking, they pass just beneath the webs.
If you do become enshrouded in an orb web, take the time to observe the spider. Following the destruction of their web, the spiders usually rappel to the ground on a strand of silk. If you’re quick, you can grab the silk and lift the spider to a nearby perch. This is the White Micrathena, Micrathena mitrata.
After completing a rather large web, the Arabesque Orbweaver, Neoscona arabesca, often hides near the base of one of the support strands. It’s at the ready to rush onto the web to collect any trapped insects. Spider webs in the face can be annoying, but the spiders are interesting enough to outweigh that minor nuisance.