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Spider hunting in Ruhenstroth

Gail Davis

Last week, our daughter Shannon noticed an unusual spider web in the rocks in the front yard. There was no spider in it and it looked like a tunnel going back in the rocks. We thought it was most unusual and figured the spider had left.

About an hour later, the spider was sitting just to the edge of the opening. It was brown with spots, sort of a cross between the wolf spiders and a tarantula. Over 10 years in Gardnerville and I’ve never seen a spider web like this so I got curious and looked it up on the Web. No pun intended.

Apparently it’s called a funnelweb spider and there are more than 400 species in the country. Who knew? The website (do you think this terminology is as funny as I do?) said that they are more prevalent outside of the tropics and prefer warm grassland areas. I think the spider in our front yard is a bit confused, lost, or perhaps it’s nearsighted. It’s on a rock wall, not in a grassy area. 

Their web is composed of dry silk, not the usual sticky threads. This material was used in the 17th and 18th century in Europe and America as a bandage to stop bleeding. 

Funnelweb spiders don’t stray far from their nests, usually retreating into the deeper part of the funnel to sleep at night where they have made a smaller opening that serves as their living quarters. They spend a lot of time in this room waiting for the web to vibrate indicating that dinner has been trapped. The spider then runs to the insect, biting it several times before carrying it back to the room to eat in private. 

Due to the shape, they have to constantly repair the structure so it is always increasing in size. Late summer or early fall is mating season but I’m pretty sure this spider isn’t going to find a mate this year. If it should be able to find a mate, the female will stay with the egg sac for a brief period of time but dies soon. Most of the funnelweb spiders only live for one year so whether this one is male or female, it won’t be here next year. 

We tried to wash the web away with a hose but that doesn’t work. Guess we’ll probably have to sweep it off later in the fall.

Have a ramblin’ good week.

Reach Gail Davis at 265-1947 or ruhenstrothramblings@yahoo.com