Thursday, September 12, 2013

Neoscona crucifera, Our Little Friend in the Doorway

Yes, it’s “another one of our little friends,” a Neoscona crucifera. Allow me to introduce you. This sturdy, fuzzy, orb-weaving spider constructs her bug-snaring traps (a.k.a. “webs”) around dusk. Then she takes down the whole shebang each morning—consuming her threads, so as not to waste material.

Therefore, it’s too dark for me to get a picture of her in her web at night!

She’s almost certainly a descendant, or at least a relative, of the neosconas we’ve had around the house as long as we’ve lived here. I’m glad for this species’ habit of recycling webs every morning, since otherwise I’d be walking through them all the time. One year, a neoscona built her web each night across our back porch steps.

But this year, this neoscona habitually builds her web right in the way of our front door each night. Yes, I have to keep in mind she does, in case I ever have to dash outdoors some evening!

A word about the name. As you know, I prefer to use scientific names, when I can determine them, because they’re far more precise. And respectful, I think. The common name for this remarkable animal is “barn spider,” and it’s problematic, because other spiders are called “barn spider,” too. (Plus, I resent any comparison of our house to a dusty, cavernous structure for holding horses, tractors, cows, and chickens!)

Anyway, we call other organisms by their genus names (such as iris and asparagus)—what’s to keep me from continuing the trend?

Besides—it’s kind of a cute name. Although “crucifera” must refer to some cross-shaped something on her body (her spinnerets, maybe?), I haven’t been able to learn what “Neoscona” means. The “neo-” surely means “new”; but I don’t know what “scona” means. Meanwhile, I’ll think of those sweet little biscuits the British have with tea: “Neoscona”? . . . Newbiscuit. (Hey, it works for me!)

By day, Ms. Neoscona hides like this in the upper corner of our doorway, making herself as little as possible. Surely you won’t notice me here. She’s almost covering up her little eyes.

At night, she builds her magnificently detailed, wheel-shaped web and makes a fine living off the many insects that flutter toward our dusk-to-dawn porch light.

There was a time when I would have squished her unceremoniously with a broom or sprayed her mercilessly with a garden hose. Thankfully, those days are long past, because I realize that each time I kill a creature, some part of me suffers, as well. So despite my distaste for occasionally stepping into their webs, I give spiders a break. They are fellow Earthlings; they do us vastly more good than harm; and when all’s said and done, they just want to spend their brief lives eating insects, quietly fulfilling their humble destinies. It’s our choice to fear them or to marvel at them. Trust me, it’s much more fun to do the latter!

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