Northland Nature: spider webs abound
Taking advantage of these conditions, I notice a lot of wild flowers in the open spaces. Fireweed abounds here and show new flowers every day. Cow parsnip and water hemlock hold white umbels above the rest. The black-eyed Susans take over from the declining daisies. Yellow and white sweet clover stands by the side of the road.
At this early hour, the yellow evening primrose petals are still open from their nocturnal bloom. Some hold a butterfly that visited at night.
And sure enough, I have to go to a few milkweed patches along the way. The milkweed may be the most dominant of all this July flora. There are new ones that have just bloomed recently: the great sunflower, bergamot and the first of the goldenrods. They will be there for weeks, but it’s good to see them coming.
READ MORE: Larry Weber’s journey to web surveillance
Among all these flowers, I also locate and taste the ripe berries of blueberry, raspberry, juneberry and cherry. Their delicious tastes make great breakfast additions.
There is more here than the plants. In the dew and the occasional mist of a July morning, I see lots of cobwebs. Some are on the ground – funnel webs. Others are in the bushes – tin canvases. And there are the circular orbs webs which are mostly found in shrubs and trees.
I visited a swamp during the fog of a recent walk and was overwhelmed by the number of orbs that were here. I estimated two hundred that I could see from where I was standing without moving. Mid-July marks the start of cobweb season, which will continue for about two months. With foggy mornings later in the summer, we’ll see a lot more webs. But it is also the time of eggs and spider nests.
Spiders lay eggs which are placed in containers called bags. These are placed in a variety of places. Some are left alone; some are carried by the mother and others are kept. This is the last of them that I discovered recently.
On a visit to a milkweed patch while I was looking for flowers, I noticed something else. A few of the plants had curved leaves covered with canvas material. The folded sheets were a safe hiding place.
A nursery spider’s nest as it appears on a milkweed. Note the folded sheets covered with silk canvas. (Photo by Larry Weber)
I recognized this as the job of the nursery spiders. These spiders get their name from this. The egg sack is inside the folded sheet and the strap holds it in place. She then descends the stem of the plant and stands guard. A little search among the leaves and the stem revealed the mother as she guarded.
A large number of tiny spiders (spiders) in the nest of a nursery spider web. (Photo by Larry Weber)
She stays here while the eggs hatch and, for a while, with the little ones inside. I looked in the leaf hiding place and saw many small spiders (spiders). The mother stays nearby until the young are able to move around on their own. Finding nursery linens is a big part of July phenology. They were on milkweeds, but I often saw the nests on raspberries, goldenrods and grasses during this time.
Nursery spiders belong to the same family as the dock spiders and fishing spiders that are often seen on or near the shores of lakes. Once the eggs hatch and the young disperse, they return to their mostly aquatic life.