Where Have All The Orbies Gone?

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2007/10/orbie2-thumb.jpgLast year and the year before that at this exact time I couldn’t walk around our house’s perimeter without marveling at the fresh and many weavings of the orb spiders around here. Their large and elaborate webs weren’t just being spun under the roof eaves or off the front porch (like the one pictured at right; click to doublicate) or between the railings or all around the backyard… they were up high spanning trees and such. It was like an arachnid epidemic and being one of those freaks who’s ever-respectful and appreciative of spiders I couldn’t have been more amazed or happier… except for those occasions when I’d unsuspectingly move face first through a web, resulting in a spontaneously spastic display of interpretive dance and expletive-laced vocalization that I can only characterize as patently and laughably ridiculous whether viewed in or out of context.

This year’s spidey count? Nada. No, I’m not talking about a marked reduction in their population. I’m talking zero. Not. A. One. It’s as if after that cold spell of last winter coupled with the overall lack of rain they all just said “That’s it, to hell with this place! We’re weaving!”

Yeah, I hear those multitudes of you out there with wittle wuv for the eight-legged wascals. To you no spiders is a good thing. But to me, I wonder if the drastically gone-missing arachnids might not be a sure sign that global warming is accelerating, and so I sent me an e-query a local expert — Brian Brown, PhD, curator of the Entomology Section of the L.A. County Museum of Natural History — asking him what might be the cause: The weather? The Griffith Park fire? The earthquakes? The Dodgers season-ending dive? Britney Spears? Are they all being held captive at the museum’s Spider Pavilion (now through November 4)? Am I singularly crazy or are there others like me?

His diplomatic response didn’t address any lack of sanity but did confirm that there are others out their like me who have noticed reduced numbers this year. “I suppose the exceptionally dry year must be the reason, causing more mortality of eggs and spiderlings,” he concluded.

That may be fine by you and the flies but it saddens the heck out of me.

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12 Replies to “Where Have All The Orbies Gone?”

  1. The real funny part to this was I was just thinking this same thought this morning. It occurred to me, walking out my front door that “wasn’t it this time last year that I was dodging all the spider webs?”

    I did see 1 however, high atop a bush near the front window, but he was small and not very monsterious looking.

    Maybe the fake webs for Halloween will entice them out.

  2. Well I was just in NJ in a little town by the Delaware River and there were a bazillion spiders. Truly an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare town. I suspect the dry weather even more crucially has meant not as many flies, gnats, mosquitoes, etc. Not enough for spidey to eat.

  3. The spiders are all at my place–even more and bigger than last year, and some of the webs have stretched astonishing distances.

    The biggest of them all just laid a gigantic egg ball next to the porch light, so we’re counting on another bumper year in ’08.

    That’s the spidey report from Lincoln Heights, dunno what’s up at your house!

  4. I noticed the same phenomenon this year. Normally I take thousands of photos of the spiders in my garden and near my office, but this year I’ve been short on models.

  5. Thank you for reading (weading?) my mind, Will. I also have been aware of the lack of spider dances in the early morning. (always works bette than coffee.) I miss seeing the giant webs shimmering with dew.

  6. We spotted an absolutely enormous spider building a web on our porch, but haven’t seen her in a few days. I don’t know if the neighbors scared him off or if she’s just laying low. I also have no idea what type of spider she is, other than huge. I’ll try to get a better look at the web.

  7. I’m having the opposite issue in Marina del Rey. We have the largest spiders I’ve ever seen outside our front door and within our townhouse complex. There are so many that it’s like a spidey neighborhood.

  8. In some places-such as east of Hollywood, as far as just south of Griffith Park and the Glendale side of the L.A. River, I have noticed a dearth of spiders. Past that, going toward the Foothills, however, there has been no shortage of one type of spider: black widows.
    A month or two ago, I noted on another blog the strange behaviour of the black widows. Where females tend to be one per spread (and that is usually a large spread, although I cannot approximate) owing to their propensity to kill each other, there have of late been up to four or five in one very small plot (say, a seven foot stretch of plants inside a one-foot-wide planter along Foothill Blvd.) as well as a noticeable increase in their webs beneath parked motor vehicles in the drier areas. (I assisted in repairing a transmission a few weeks ago, and we had to kill TWO of the little bitches, then sprayed all the other webs that had popped up during the week the vehicle had been parked in one place – and this was in Los Feliz!)
    I do miss the true orb weavers, however. One of my favourites is the garden spider. Their bulbous black and yellow entities and the occasionally MASSIVE webs they weave in the southeast United States (I have come across specimens nearly as large as my hand, and webs that appear to be primed to catch large birds!) were also fun to find. Despite their size, they are harmless to humans, and easy to handle as well.

  9. Whereabouts do you reside, 5000? I am curious if the ballooning population of black widows and the recent decline in bees (the latter being investigated as a possible virus from Israel that has been found in dead bees in Australia and Israel) has any intimate connection.

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