Fall Spider Watching

Spiders have been quietly spinning their webs since spring. They are big enough for spider watching in the fall.

Most of the orb web spiders die in the fall leaving behind egg cases from which the spring generation of spiders will hatch. Remember “Charlotte’s Web”?

double spider webs in morning dew
Double webs are common in summer and fall. One spider spins both. The spider has a look out spot between the two webs, but is difficult to spot and has an escape spot for quick getaways.

The baby spiders are tiny dots with legs. They spin tiny webs to catch pollen for food.

As the spiders get bigger, food means insects. Mosquitoes, flies and other insects we don’t want around. It takes a lot of insects for a spider to get big.

By fall orb spiders are big. Their webs are big. Grasshoppers are on the menu.

Spider watching begins early in the morning for garden spiders. That is when the spider spins her web. If you’ve never watched a spider weave a big orb web, you should.

garden spider great for spider watching
Garden spiders get big and their bright color makes them easy to spot. Each one seems to stake out an area and build a new web there each day. You have to get up early to see the whole process as the spider begins at first light.

As you watch realize that spider is essentially blind. Orb web spiders see little more than light and dark in spite of their many eyes (six or eight). A web is spun by instinct and touch.

The big black and yellow garden spider finishes up with a zipper in the center of the web. A marble spider (red with a blotchy yellow abdomen) spins in the evening and has no center decoration. Neither do the various carapace spiders with the large spiky abdomens.

All of these large spiders are females. The males are much smaller. They spend much of their time looking for female spiders.

carapace spiders have an other worldly look
This spider group is different. The spiky carapace is strange. There are several kinds. I’ve seen two around my hills. This one seems more common.

If you are lucky, your spider watching might spot a male courting. Remember these spiders can’t see. Theirs is a world of touch and vibrations. The courting is done by playing tunes on the web.

Spiders have many enemies besides people. Morning may find an empty web with a hole in the center. A bat came by. Birds eat spiders. Mud dauber wasps paralyze spiders for their young to eat as they develop in those mud nests.

Hopefully there will be plenty of egg cases hidden in protected places. We need spiders, not just for spider watching, but for non-chemical, ecologically friendly insect control.

Meet more Ozark residents in Exploring the Ozark Hills.