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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Gardening to Distraction: Along came a spider….

  • It seems they show up all of a sudden, black and yellow garden spiders weaving webs in all sorts of inconvenient places.
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  • It seems they show up all of a sudden, black and yellow garden spiders weaving webs in all sorts of inconvenient places.
    I like spiders. One isn't charmed by E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" without having at least a literary affinity to these amazing creatures.
    Did you know spider web silk is, weight for weight, stronger than steel?
    Now that I have honeybees, I tend to patrol webs to release bees. I'm not always in time so a number of my bees have become stored food for baby spiders-to-be.
    If you study any spider web, you will see they are not necessarily picky. Almost anything is fair game to get tangled in their web.
    Spiders are the insect patrol and clean-up crew in gardens. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, spiders eat more insects than birds and bats combined.
    Because of this, spiders are a boon on agricultural lands, destroying huge numbers of crop-damaging insects. Since each spider in a field may consume a least one insect per day, their cumulative effect on insect populations is significant.
    Spiders, along with ticks, mites, harvestmen and scorpions, belong to the class Arachnida. Unlike insects, which have six legs, spiders have eight. They have no antennae, and they have two-piece bodies.
    A spider has silk-spinning structures called spinnerets at the back end of its abdomen, and it usually has eight eyes of various sizes and shapes.
    On one of my visits to work in Washington, D.C., I stopped by the Smithsonian to see the Orkin bug corner at the Natural History Museum. The exhibits included a very detailed ant farm — more like an ant mansion, behind glass — several exhibits of termites and the kind of damage they can do to wood, a cockroach home and, by far the kids' favorite, the tarantulas. Think furry garden spiders only 10 to 15 times larger and quick-moving, which is part of their gruesome appeal.
    The day I was visiting, the docent was an older lady who reminded me of my grandmother. She also wore a white lace collar over her dress and those old-fashioned, flower button earrings against her bluish gray hair.
    All of a sudden I heard her say in her quiet voice "and then the tarantula uses its fangs to s-u-c-k the brains out, just like a milk shake."
    "EEEEEWWWW" in unison came loudly from kids surrounding her. I'm sure they could be heard all the way down to the first floor by the mastodon elephant replica.
    Scientists predict that as our climate gets warmer, snakes will grow as long as buses and horses may shrink to the size of cats.
    I prefer to be surprised at what may happen to the size of spiders.
    Page 2 of 2 - Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News and Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@ gmail.com.
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