Fall Foliage and Spiders, no less!
The fall foliage has been giving us here in Maine a treat. This picture was taken as the colors were just warming up, but now you can come across spectacular color, especially cooked up by Red Maples and Staghorn Sumac. However, I was stopped in my tracks by this purple spider adorning the lawn of a Halloween enthusiast! I couldn't resist stopping to take a picture, including the leaf decorated "spider web". This inflated spider has the correct number of legs, but it should have had 8 eyes to be more accurate. Out in nature, I have seen no purple spiders, but I have seen some amazingly beautiful decorate spider abdomens. I have even taken time to draw the designs on this spiders, with admiration and wonder. Maybe you have seen them.

Spiders are not exactly the animal to pick up and pass around. It is my understanding that all spiders can bite, but usually they use their venom to paralyze insects that get caught in their intricate webs. The venom of most spiders is not toxic to people, but we must not forget the infamous Black Widow. Not all spiders make orb webs, some make funnels or netting to catch their prey. Some just prowl around and hunt down food without bothering to make those fancy webs. If you have never watched a spider make an orb web, you are missing out a marvelous adventure. Of course you know that the fibers come out of the rear of their abdomens - from spinnerettes. Some fibers are sticky, others are not. I wonder why the spider doesn't get caught in its own web? I also understand that these animals are efficient recyclers. Some eat their old webs and then spin new ones with the same basic stuff (technically a protein similar to the silk of caterpillars). In the picture to the left, just try and count the many times this spider has circled, while attaching fibers to the connecting cross pieces. Usually, the spider sits away from the web, but closes in when something gets stuck in its trap. At that point, it proceeds to wrap the intruder in the fine webbing and injects poison to disable its moving.

Here are some of the fancy abdomens that have attracted my eye. Believe me, I did not embellish the design when copying it. One looks like it would make a nice Halloween mask! Here is another one that likes to make webs in my window panes catching insects attracted to the light inside. Sometimes, Green Head Flies are trapped which makes me inclined to leave the spiders undisturbed.

These spiders assure the survival of their specie by laying a large egg case that you may find hanging in your garden. Inside, the eggs will in time hatch, and nourish themselves until emerging in the spring by eating their neighboring eggs. Some spend the winter as adults, others as immature spiderlings. Such is life among spiders!

Though they are few and far between, I continue to see Monarch butterflies. These must be the tail end of those starting their migratory trip to Mexico. There are still a few blooming flowers to provide nourishment and energy for the long trip.
10/16/06 Ronnie, in a Halloween mood...