Thursday, January 26, 2012

Charlotte's Web in Berkeley (or, the Spider in the Hall)

Okay, there's no pig in this post, so the title is a bit of a stretch. But here's the thing.

In October I started a Tumblr. (It's called One Finger Clicking, get it?)

My second photo posted to the Tumblr (at right) shows a spider that I'd noticed hanging out on the landing of our small apartment building's stairwell. The spider had been there for a couple of weeks at the time I took the photo. That was on October 21st, a little more than three months ago, so figure it's been about four months since I first saw the critter.

When it comes to spiders we're a live and let live bunch of apartment-dwellers here in my building (less so when it comes to rats). The spider in the hall last October wasn't going to hurt anybody, her web was tucked into a corner that's mostly taken up with a potted plant (a spider plant, natch), so nobody messed with her.

The thing is ... how long are spiders supposed to live, anyway? 'Cuz what I'm here to tell you today is that this very same spider has been living in our hallway all this time, since early October. Yup. She's still weaving away.

I know it's the same spider because I see her just about every day, as I'm walking up the stairs. The web is always in about the same place from day to day (the spider has shifted location slowly over time, probably in response to changing weather and the fact that the window is usually closed now instead of usually open a few months ago). She's always perched right smack in the center of the web; sometimes it looks as though she hasn't moved for days on end.

Those stretches of immobility make me wonder sometimes if she's finally died and gone to spider-heaven, whether it's just a soulless spider husk clinging to the web. At such times I restrain the ten year old boy still lurking inside me (deep, deep, deep inside) and refrain from poking to see if she moves. I give it a day or three, and eventually the spider changes position just a wee bit ... or maybe she makes an obvious move and I find her curled up around some hapless little fly, sucking its guts out. Hey, that's what spiders do...

I'm not an experienced spider classifier, but this one seems to be a pretty classic orb weaver. Maybe it's the European garden spider, Araneus diadematus. Whatever the genus and species, we get zillions of these spiders every fall in Berkeley. Out-of-towners can get a little freaked out, because they're highly visible, some of them get pretty meaty, even, and they and their webs are everyplace. They seem to have lasted an especially long time this year -- perhaps because we had an unusually dry December and first half of January.

The 2003 photo by Johan Van Hoecke on the UC Berkeley BioKeys Orb-weavers page (available on the date of this blog post) looks like a pretty good match. Nick's Spiders has a lot of photos of this species if you're interested in lots more.

So ... apologies to Wilbur's fan club for the reachy title of this post, but I just had to give a shout out to the tenacious little arthropod in the hall.

[Charlotte's Web, written by E.B. White and published in 1952, is one of my favorite children's books of all time. If you have kids and they haven't read it, do 'em a favor and put it in their queue. If you're an adult and haven't read it, don't think for a moment that it's too late: head out to your nearest independent book store and pick up a copy this week.]

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Microblogging on Tumblr
An abundance of rats

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