Don’t look up!

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.

Golden Orb-Web Spider, Crane Point, Florida Keys

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).

Golden Orb Spider Crane Point Florida

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!

Golden Orb-Web Weaver Spider, Florida Keys, Crane Point

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….


6 thoughts on “Don’t look up!

  1. Jane,
    It’s fantastic to see your picture of the Golden Silk spider. For many years I dealt with them on a day to day basis. I worked at an orchard in Georgia. The Golden Silk’s were plentiful & hung off the trees like Christmas ornaments. I even took to feeding then grasshoppers. They’re not native where I live now. It is good to see one again. Thanks.

  2. Polar. Thanks so much for visiting my site again. I have such a phobia about spiders (of all sizes) that there was no way I was going to be feeding them anything! They were beautiful though and the webs were stunning. Glad you liked the post. Jane

  3. Ugh! That is a spidery spider! I coped with everything except the Wiki photo – that was just too much!

    I think spiders are fascinating, and I love the look of orb-webs in sunlight (or frosted, or with raindrops …) and I hate the thought of killing the poor things. But I cannot cope with the idea of one actually touching me. And, believe it or not, I’m considerably better than I used to be.

    Phobias suck!

  4. Dragonstar. I’m sorry. I know, it’s just too “spidery”. I couldn’t let one crawl over me. I feel the same as you. Nice to look at…. from a distance! Jane

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