Oct 23 2011

Dazzling Spider

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Are you the kind of person who carries spiders and bugs outside so that they’ll avoid the sole of a shoe, the vortex of a swirling toilet bowl – or in our house – the fast and furious paws of predatory cats? I am. I know … Big surprise. But I’ve always been that way – not just during Halloween when spiders get a bad rap.

This lucky spider was the center of my attention for weeks. Click to enlarge so you can see the faint lines of the web that are suspending him in the air.

I am so passionate about all life, in fact, that I scare some people – including my Little Sister (Big Brothers Big Sisters). She once grabbed a lightning bug from the lawn and proceeded to pluck off its wings. I naturally screamed in horror, stopping her before she yanked off wing no. 2. I think she might have been 11 then – and with the biggest doe eyes I’ve ever seen.

“But, we wear them as rings,” she said. “See.” She plucked off the other wing.

I screamed. Again.

I asked her how she could possibly kill something just for the fun of it. I couldn’t fathom it – me, the gal who stopped spraying outdoors for scorpions because I realized less-sinister insects were suffering (and dying) as a result of my actions: geckos, tarantulas, walking sticks.

You can probably guess that my Lil’ Sis never removed the wings from a lighting bug again. And you can guess that I’m STILL saving arachnids and insects any chance I get.

This may LOOK like the same western spotted orb weaver pictured above, but this is actually spidey no. 2 (of the same variety). And yes, that IS the writing studio on wheels in the background. Click to enlarge and see the gorgeous marbled designs on this spider.

There is more to this story than these dazzling spider shots. And it all revolves around weeding – and how well Hubby knows me.

“Do you want to keep his web?” he asked as we cleaned up the back yard of our house-under-construction.

Of course I told him, “Yes,” and, “Leave that patch of weeds.” And also: “Don’t forget his brother over there. Leave that patch of weeds, too.”

Different view of Neoscona oaxacensis, the western spotted orbweaver. They love grassy areas, and with the rain we had this summer, the barren backyard turned grassy. Look at those sexy striped legs! Click to enlarge.

Despite our best efforts, however, the spider brothers were displaced in the end. No. 2 was inadvertently removed from his home when hubby drove the four-wheeler right over his web on his way to pick up weed piles. Fortunately, I found him a day later, crawling up  the side of the house.

No. 1’s web was also destroyed – shaken lose from the quad tire hitting the weeds to which the web was affixed. I later found this spider hanging out on another plant on the rock wall. Phew. No spider deaths! And they both began to rebuild immediately.

For Writers, For Everyone: There is something to learn from every living creature – whether we’re afraid of it or not, whether it’s fluffy or scaly, cute or scary. And, since Halloween is coming up, I figured a spider tribute was in order. Look what I would have missed if I had not crawled around on the desert floor to capture these shots.

This is the underside of the orbweaver. What wonderful details! As pretty as a painting! Click to enlarge.

If you can muster the courage to look at the spider through an artistic lens, go back and click through the photos in close-up view. Look at the gorgeous marble patterning on this spider’s back. Look at the microscopic hairs on its legs. Look how your perspective of this spider changes based on the light that either makes him dark or illuminates him.

Look how he seems to be floating on nothing but air – but how if you look more closely, you’ll see an intricate web tethering him to the earth. Isn’t this how we should look at ALL things – especially the things that scare us – with analytical, open, observant eyes?


51 Responses to “Dazzling Spider”

  • avatar K Says:

    Analytical, open, observant eyes are definitely what you have Melissa (Nancy Drew). These are the best shots of orb weavers I have observed in a long time. Very beautiful! Thanks for sharing and happy Halloween.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Why thank you so much! I’ll consider the Nancy Drew comment a compliment.

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    Okay…I was doing fine until you said “hairs on his legs” then I felt that spider chill. He he he!
    Seriously, Melissa, all life is sacred, isn’t it? I wish everyone thought like you. The world would be a kinder place.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I wish everyone “got that” concept of sacred life, too. What a different world it would be, wouldn’t it?

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  • avatar Sue Mitchell Says:

    I am a spider lover too! The only creepy crawlies that get to me are things that jump, like crickets. Love to listen to them chirp, but when they come in the house…ick.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh, then you would not have been a happy camper around our place the past few months. Somehow, the little tiny brown/translucent crickets are getting in here and there (providing vast amounts of entertainment for the cats, however, who always seem to rip one leg off the poor guys before I can rescue them!)… I do love the sound of crickets, too!

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    Sue Mitchell Reply:

    I live in the high desert of western Colorado, and every September, the crickets move indoors. Ours are not brown and translucent or little and tiny like yours. We’re talking big black dudes (and dudettes, with the ovipositor in the back).

    They like to hang out behind bookcases and impossible-to-move things like that and chirp while you’re trying to sleep. If you see one out in the open and try to exterminate it, they jump all over the place. And no, I don’t catch and release annoying insects that have come in my house to lay eggs and die.

    Now you have me going! But aside from these crickets, I do love insects and shriek when kids try to kill them. 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh, we have those big suckers, too. And YES – they are SO LOUD. I’ve been lucky to have only found two in the house this year. I can see how they would drive you mad!

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  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    Amazing spider photos! We have an absolute rule in our family: all bugs are released to the wild if we find them in the house (in winter we sometimes put them in the basement or “let them be” in the house. (Exceptions: the black widow we found in our son’s bedroom when he was 3 and all mosquitos!) Happily, my kids both do that now, wherever they are. And I absolutely agree that everything should be analyzed with open observant eyes, especially the things that scare us!

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    Melissa Reply:

    I LOVE that you instilled this insect love in your family. Most people cock their heads sideways and look at me like I have two heads of my own (or antennae, or multiple eyes…) Yes, black widows (and the dreaded brown recluse spider out here) are exceptions to the rule. So are sun scorpions and scorpions… at least in our household.

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  • avatar Shary Says:

    I think bugs are fascinating on film and in pictures, but in real life, I get squeamish. I do try to catch and release when at all possible, though. Your pictures are wonderful.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I’m impressed, Shary. You’re squeamish, but still catch and release. Wasn’t that you, in Sedona, who caught the tarantula running past your foot but snapped a picture? What were the chances?

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    Shary Reply:

    I shreiked and ran when we saw the tarantula. It was my hubby who took the picture. Sigh.

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  • avatar Hallie Sawyer Says:

    I am not the bug lover you are but I DO give them a fighting chance by tossing them outside on their ears if I find them in the house. But I’m with Julia though on mosquitoes. No mercy.

    Cool pictures but you are convincing me that Arizona is off the top ten list of places for me to retire. Heebie jeebies abound! 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    Wow. I’m completely blown away by your spider-saving tactics (I thought you were an arachnid hater for sure).

    Well, MOST places in urban Arizona don’t have half the issues we have. When we lived in Phoenix, I never saw ANY of this stuff – so you’d still be safe retiring here. Just stick with the city, and you’ll do fine, kid! 🙂

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  • avatar Sara Says:

    You are the spider whisperer Melissa. Lately I’ve been running into a lot of spider webs…both noticing them and walking right into them. I don’t know much about spiders but it must be the time of year or something. They are everywhere! I can spend ten minutes standing and staring at the webs. You know how much effort it takes humans to make something so beautiful?..blows my mind.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I love it. Spider Whisperer! I agree with you; the webs are incredible works of art and engineering, aren’t they?

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    Yesterday I found THREE brown recluse corpses (don’t worry, they died of natural causes, Melissa!) in our baby girl’s future nursery. This terrifies me, as I know if she was ever bitten, she would probably have to be hospitalized. So, I have to admit, that I squash these suckers (and black widows) whenever I see them. If they are a pretty garden spider, though, I leave them to their weaving. They always remind me of Charlotte’s Web, and how could you squash one of HER ancestors?

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    Christine Grote Reply:

    You’re right about the brown recluse. I know a young boy who got bit from one and it really did a number on his leg. He recovered eventually. I think the more you are in the nursery the less likely they’ll stick around. They don’t really like us any more than we like them. They’re not called recluse for nothing.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Well, I’m NOT a fan of the brown recluse. One of them bit one of our kitties, and her paw was about five times the size it should have been. And they’re more poisonous than black widows (of which we also have our share). I squish those, too – hate to admit it. Yes, how can you mess with Charlotte’s kin?

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  • avatar Roxanne Says:

    I am spider phobic for sure (just ask hubby) but these were some pretty spiders I must agree. I will never see them in real life as I RUN when I see spiders. so thanks for sharing the pictures!

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    Melissa Reply:

    I did not know this about you, tough girl!

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  • avatar Suzie Ivy Says:

    Melissa, these pictures are wonderful. I also love reading the comments by like-minded people. I don’t run into them often in my neck of the woods. I have a special plastic container with the lid’s corner lip cut off just to catch bugs and not inadvertently remove a leg. Spiders are my favorite and a more glorious, industrious, insect cannot be found. Thank you for show casing their beauty. Happy Halloween!

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    Melissa Reply:

    That you enjoyed this post really does show how far you’ve come from your previous spider days! Look at you and your modified bug container. I love it!

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  • avatar Christine Grote Says:

    My rule of thumb is if it’s outside I leave it alone. But I have an uncontrollable phobia about spiders. I realize it is completely irrational. I would catch and release them if I could get close enough. But, no. (I’ve thought about inventing a long-handled spider-catcher, kind of like a pooper-scooper.)

    Sorry. And until I go vegetarian, I’m not sure how much a spider here or there really matters in the whole scheme of things. I’ve got far worse sins on my plate.

    I do try to save other bugs, though, including those that sting.

    I did leave a little spider alone on the windshield of my car today, and what did he do? He dropped right down on my leg. Ughh. I’m not sure what happened next with him.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I don’t think you’re alone in your spider phobia, Christine. Love the concept of an arachnid scooper, too :-). I’m trying not to laugh about the little spider on the windshield and how he double-crossed you. Thanks for the smile. Even I would have been fidgety and freaked out if he landed on my leg. Yes, I confess (well – that depends on how little “little” really is).

    Thanks for stopping by.

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  • avatar Michelle Says:

    These are fascinating spiders! Great photos as always. I agree, there is always something to be learned and admired by watching nature; they’re a good barometer. Often I notice that they want to come indoors if there is about to be a sudden change in weather. You’ve inspired me to take a closer look the next time I see a web.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I love that you mention spiders as good barometers. There really are so many animals/insects/reptiles that serve in a barometric fashion to warn us of environmental changes and problems. I wrote a few science articles about how salamanders and frogs do the same thing, acting as sentinels to bigger problems in the environment.

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    I never thought of the fact that recluses won’t come around if I am around, Christine. Thank you; that is very comforting! I just couldn’t believe how many were in the nursery — in a BRAND NEW house — in the exact place where we eventually are going to put the crib! But that’s what you get when you’re living out in the woods. 🙂

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    Christine Grote Reply:

    Well, I can’t exactly prove that scientifically, but they tend to hang out in dark places away from people.

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  • avatar Lori Parker Says:

    Oh dear… I fear this may ruin a beautiful friendship, but I must confess, all insects take their lives in their hairy little legs if they come indoors. I will kill without remorse. But I would never torture and I definitely leave well enough alone outside. I even moved a spider web that blocked my walk way, while the spider held on as I changed his angle. But inside… ahem… Die Sucker! (don’t hate me!)

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I’m so sorry we can no longer be friends. HA HA… Kidding. You are not alone in your haste to stomp on indoor insects. But how kind of you to relocate that spider’s web.

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  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Melissa–how much do I adore you? Let me count the ways…

    You and I are such kindred spirits. But first, let me say how wonderful you are to be a Big Sister. You are doing such a special, precious thing for this young girl and the world we all live in.

    And I am that person who ALWAYS wants to save the spiders. Ask my husband! I put off vacuuming a corner of our house because there was an egg sack in the spider’s web! And then when I couldn’t put it off any longer, I tried to relocate her and her brood. It didn’t end well, but I couldn’t bear the idea of uprooting her.

    (PS–My hubby looked over and recognized the orb spider! We have some around here–not nearly as full as yours but it looks similar…)

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thank you for the sweet compliment regarding my Little Sis. I was actually named Arizona’s Big Sis of the Year in 2010 (though I have to say that SHE made it easy).

    You may be even more of a die-hard spider lover than I … And I’ve learned there are SO many kind of orbs weavers. Such skilled crafts-spiders they are.

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    Erika Marks Reply:

    Big Sis of the year for the WHOLE STATE! Oh, Melissa–what an incredible award–talk about something to be proud of. You are amazing!

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  • avatar Katie Shea Says:

    A spider tribute! How interesting! I have definitely gained a different perspective on these creepy, crawly, frightening insects! You are right, there is an art to their markings. And at one point, I was considering them as “beautiful,” but then I realized, it was a spider! Eek! Happy Halloween! Who has a spider costume?

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    Melissa Reply:

    A spider costume… Now I like that idea! And I agree – they really are beautiful if you get down close to see their markings.

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  • avatar Leah Says:

    Beautiful photos. I have come to really appreciate spiders and truly admire their beauty. We had a few building webs in my husband’s old truck bed. It was fascinating watching their progress every day. The webs are incredible. My husband always saves spiders and brings them outside to save them.

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    Melissa Reply:

    My heart is warmed knowing there are so many fellow spider savers out there!

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  • avatar Tracy Mangold Says:

    I do respect them for their intricacy and their beauty. I’m not a fan of them personally – spiders or snakes – although my three-year-old LOVES them. We try to let them outside whenever we can. Once in a while they catch me by surprise and I am not so gracious. But I do respect the life of all around me. It is indeed a beautiful world in which we live – all creatures great and small.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I will admit that both spiders and snakes have that “creepy” factor to them. So nice to meet like-minded people who respect all life, though.

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  • avatar Susan Okaty Says:

    Fabulous pictures, Melissa. And how can anyone fault you for caring about all of God’s creatures? What a great way to live!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, Susan! I appreciate the compliment about the photos. Spiders aren’t the easiest to capture.

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  • avatar Shari Lopatin Says:

    Melissa,

    I am so, so sorry I’ve been away and a bad blog follower the past couple of weeks. Life got just a tad crazy. I LOVE your spider shots! And I admire your bravery. LOL! But I know what you mean. I find myself watching the ground as I go on my lunch walks during break at work, and purposefully stepping over lines of busy-working ants. My boyfriend even saved a honey bee last year. He got stuck in my home’s air vents, and my boyfriend even fed the bee some Arizona honey to give him strength. LOL!

    I think if we can learn to respect nature, we can learn so much from it. Whether you’re religious or not, I think there’s something very spiritual in our natural surroundings. Nature not only has the power to teach, but the power to heal(both physically AND emotionally).

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    Melissa Reply:

    No need for apologies, Shari. If you read today’s post, you’ll know that sometimes we need to step away and tend to the most important priorities! Good for you and boyfriend saving the honeybees and ants! Nice to know I’m not alone in this world :-).

    And I loved your comment that there is something spiritual in our natural surroundings. Yes, indeed!

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    Such a beautiful post, Melissa! I love how you see the world and how you take the time to share it with us so we may appreciate these kinds of things, too.

    How sad that spiders inspire so much fear when they’re such beautiful creatures. It makes me wonder how many things we’d miss, both as writers and in general, if we didn’t try to get past the fear and look closer?

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    Melissa Reply:

    I can attest that I missed a LOT of the things around me before I put on my writing hat – not necessarily because of fear, but more just because of a lack of focus (or maybe even apathy). Some fear can be healthy, of course, but it can also hinder perspective as you say. Great thoughts!

    I also think photography helps people see the world around them with greater depth!

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  • avatar Sheila Deeth Says:

    I love the pictures. If spiders would just stay still like that I’d be fine. I always try not to touch their webs, can stand and stare at them happily, and even lean close. They’re gorgeous, but… I try not not to scare them into moving, because… if they’re scared into moving I’ll run!

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    Melissa Reply:

    So happy you stopped by my blog, Sheila! Ha ha. Your description of spiders is quite relatable. As much as I do appreciate spiders, there are some here in the desert that make me want to sprint, too. Case in point: a giant crab spider (they are as big or bigger than tarantulas) scurried over the outside of the camper door when I was closing it. Given that I wasn’t expecting to see a giant spider silhouette, I confess that I let out a little scream! They’re fast-movers, too (unlike tarantulas). Then, of course, I got the camera and took pictures of him.

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    Shiela Deeth Reply:

    Okay, I don’t feel so wimpish if you confess to an occasional scream.

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  • avatar Milliver's Travels Says:

    I am the kind of person who will save a spider so I loved this post. There’s usually nothing scary about the spiders I find in the house here in Ohio, but back in Australia I used to handle Redback spiders (equivalent to the Black Widow), which most people would squash in a heartbeat because they’re so dangerous. My trick was to use an empty toilet roll (the cardboard part) stapled closed at one end. I felt in no danger.

    I had to smile about your hubby asking if you wanted to save those cobwebs. I was sweeping around some just the other day because they contained live spiders. Bravo to you for advancing the cause by blogging about it. :~)

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