Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Not for the squeamish (apart from the eft)

Spiders get a sympathetic hearing here, as useful predators of less pleasant creatures, but I have to admit that it is alarming to watch them in lethal action. We discovered this the other day while cutting back a shrub in which a large Garden Spider had spun its beautiful web.

The spider was in the process of trussing up an unfortunate crane fly which had blundered into the trap and was rapidly vanishing in a cocoon of sticky silk. Nearby fluttering caught our eye, and the spider's: it was another crane fly - perhaps the first one's mate - and within seconds, it was a prisoner too.

There is little point in interfering in this grisly process which takes place all the time, all over the UK. Beatrix Potterland, it is not. But the story has a happy ending. On another shrub, these two crane flies were busy making sure that their species will continue.

By coincidence, there was a magnificent spider's web on the car's wing mirror this morning, so strong that it survived a round trip to Kidlington. No prey in it, however; such effort for so little reward.

Nature continues to bring us fresh surprises. Our gardening turned up this delicate wasp's nest below; and we found an eft - or immature newt - on the patio. The name is a fascinating piece of etymology: the Anglo Saxons called newts 'efts' which over the centuries changed for unknown reasons into 'ewts'. Fed up with trying to say 'an newt', the pragmatic inhabitants of our island changed the word again to 'newt'.  Try 'an ewt' and 'a newt' and I think you'll sympathise.


RappinRach said...

Very interesting. I had to stop whilst driving the other day to scoop my wing mirror spider into safety.

Another spider incident was at the weekend,when I heard a loud buzzing. A bee was stuck in a web. what seemed to happen next was that the spider came out & appeared to push the bee free. I thought maybe it knew the bee would be too much for it, & was damaging the web.

MartinWainwright said...

Hi there - how interesting. They are amazingly sturdy little things aren't they!

I think your bee there sounds highly plausible. I've seen a Large Yellow Underwing moth making a fine hash of a small spider's web while e spider sat nervously (I think) to one side

All warm wishes and many thanks for interesting comment