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Prime Time

Here in the Northeast of the United States, we're in the thick of prime spider silk- and web-spotting season. By now, spiders who live only for a year are mature and either have already or are about to lay eggs. Which means they've been fattening up in anticipation. Which also means they've been laying out bigger and better traps for their prey and setting up nurseries. (Which also means that if you pay attention to news outlets that have to fill space, you're likely to read about all sorts of supposedly unusual surges in spider populations; these articles appear every September.)

On a walk around Fresh Pond in Cambridge, MA, this past weekend, we came across this large funnel web built in the shade, against a stump.

There were all sorts of other funnel and sheet webs scattered amongst the leaf litter and pasted to the hurricane fence around the pond. Orb webs are marvelous, but if you want to see the vast variety of constructions spiders make with their silks, squat down on your haunches and start scanning the shadier portions of the undergrowth and banks of ponds and streams. The close-up below shows this master builder to be most likely an agelenid, and likely a grass spider (Agelenopsis).

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Norwegian Webs

My family and I spent August visiting family in Liverpool (yes, that is where the Beatles came from) and then vacationing in Norway. Once you've discovered spider silk, your vacation snapshots are never quite the same. Norway is a wide-angle country. It's the rare photographer who can capture how high and deep the fjords feel, how scraped and lichen-splattered the mountain plateaus look, how the sky hangs at many levels at once. Anyone willing to sit through the post-trip slideshow quickly tires of hearing, "It was much steeper than that looks," and, "That's only a small slice of the view from there."

But Norway also exists on a different scale, and if my eyes hadn't been drawn to nooks and edges because I now detect spider silk everywhere, close-focus Norway might have escaped my notice. And so, a small selection of our travel pics (taken by Spider Silk's crack illustrator, Peter Loftus).

Bergen's funicular, the Floibanen, hauls tourists from the city center to the top of Mount Floyen. The fantastic views of the city and suburbs from on high are the main draw. But a short hike on the trails leading away from the viewing plaza revealed how easy it is for residents of Bergen to take a break from the city.  Read More 
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