Today I needed to do some food shopping in Marathon about 10 miles away, and thought I’d pop into Crane Point Nature Centre (which is conveniently opposite the supermarket!). We have a lovely neighbour on Conch Key called Jacquie who had already offered to let me borrow her pass to Crane Point, so with pass in pocket I was all set.
The golden web – but where’s its occupant?
Walking down the first trail at Crane Point, beneath dense mangrove trees, I suddenly became aware of something golden glinting in the sunlight (see above). A spiders web. But this wasn’t a tiny Spinybacked Orbweaver web. I concentrated hard and as my focus shortened I spotted it. At this point I have to admit I was very girlie and gasped (very quietly).
Hanging above my head
The spider at the centre of the web was big and it was hanging no more than a foot above my face. This was the Golden Orb-Web Spider Nephila clavipes. I had heard all about it but had never seen one.
This was a female, which grow five times bigger than the males. Their name actually comes from the web’s golden colour, which was the first thing I had noticed. They have long hairy legs (bit like me), a strange red abdomen (bit like me), a bite that won’t kill you, and are very spidery!
A photograph from Wikipedia to show you the size of a female
– not my hairy hand!
As is always the same with these things, once I’d seen one I couldn’t stop seeing them. They were everywhere. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them in every bush and tree and suspended above the trail. Taking a deep breath (and remember I won’t get a small garden spider out of the bath at home) I carried on walking beneath them.
So what strange facts have I found out about them? Well, people have used their web to make ceremonial clothes (but it was too hard to get the silk from the spider to do it commercially), fishermen have been known to use the web as a net for bait fishing, the silk is six times stronger than steel, is not recognised by the human immune system and has antibacterial properties.
Potential uses for the silk range from “medical sutures and artificial tendons to suspension bridge cables and composite materials for the space industry” and lastly the spider is manically scared of cockroaches and runs away from them.
I kind of know how it feels….