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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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