An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Spider Web-filled Fields

10-11-17 spider webs 049A5930While 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.

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11 responses

  1. Susan Whitaker Capparelle

    Amazing Mary. Would not have known that!

    October 11, 2017 at 8:40 am

  2. Jan Linskey

    Going to Australia and Tasmania this month. Maybe we will witness this phenomena.

    October 11, 2017 at 8:57 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    Little ‘field fishermen’ comes to mind…casting their nets on the grass.

    October 11, 2017 at 9:12 am

  4. Peter Hollinger

    An interesting species is Frontinella communis, the Bowl and Doily Weaver, with its two-level web.
    http://bugguide.net/node/view/996803

    October 11, 2017 at 9:27 am

  5. Dede & Kendrick Heath

    Some years ago I took a walk with a friend in the woods of western Massachusetts in the early morning, with sunlight coming through the trees. Sunlight hit a spider web, a sort of rounded tent, and it had a beautiful iridescence! I still have it in my mind’s eye. ~ Dede Heath

    October 11, 2017 at 10:26 am

  6. Peter Denis

    I have noticed these webs on my lawn in southern Quebec in the fall. Now I know why they are there.

    October 11, 2017 at 12:49 pm

  7. Viola

    Love the picture. it’s a scene that’s difficult to capture. You did it!

    October 11, 2017 at 3:45 pm

  8. Annie McCleary

    Mary, thank you for your wonderful presentation in Woodbury last evening! I learned a lot and it was great fun. thank you for your good work! Annie

    October 12, 2017 at 9:40 pm

  9. birdlady612

    I had read about this in Australia a few years ago, however, I didn’t know it happened in all these other places as well. I’m sorry, but I hate spiders and could never be near a field like that. It gives me the shivers just picturing it. I know spiders eat bad bugs, but so do so many other not-so-creepy insects. 🙋🐦

    October 15, 2017 at 9:24 am

  10. These sheet web doilies are a thrill of late summer mornings!

    Over the last decade, thanks to many early-mid November walks at Great Meadows NWR I observed a yearly rhythm of gossamer days over the marsh when the temperature and winds were optimal for a mass ballooning of young spiders. The thousands of threads glinting and billowing across the marshscape were magical, especially at sunset. I learned at that time of the coincident occurrences around the world and the lore associated with them and was guided to observe the whole experience more closely in Concord by Thoreau’s keen accounts. I made a post with photos on my website early on in the experience, http://www.senseofplace-concord.com/2015/11/gossamer-days-return.html.

    October 16, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    • Amazing blog, Cherrie, and post. I am in awe of your natural history knowledge and experience, as well as your photography!

      October 16, 2017 at 10:38 pm

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