While perhaps not as impressive as the square miles of fields and trees that have been totally covered in spider webs in New Zealand, Pakistan, Tasmania and Southern Australia over the past year or two, New England does have its share of fields adorned with spider silk. The silk in foreign lands was the result of spiders ballooning (floating aloft on gossamer they spin that is lifted by the wind) in spring – an effective means of dispersal. The silk we see highlighted in fields in the early morning dew of autumn in New England serves as webs, or traps, for unsuspecting insects. A majority of these webs are made by grass spiders, many of which weave a horizontal sheet of silk that have a funnel often on one side leading down to a spider hide-a-way. When vibrations alert the spider to a potential meal that is caught in its web, it rushes out, injects the insect with digestive enzymes, and drags it back into its retreat where it begins to feed.
Northern New England is quieting down. Many birds are migrating; turtles, frogs, toads and snakes are soon to seek their winter hibernacula; insects have laid eggs or are overwintering in sheltered spots. Naturally Curious is also making a seasonal change. From now until the end of March there will be three posts a week – on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Come spring, a five-days/week schedule will resume.