Lee’s Stories

Lee’s Stories

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posted on June 10, 2010 | Science and Nature
A small matter of maternity

I backed
our riding mower out
of its tent-shelter the other day
to do some repairs, and as the mower
came into the light I noticed hundreds of tiny
spiders dispersing down a circus-tent cone of
spider webs radiating from the top
of a control lever.
A few spiders ran out onto my pants leg where
I had broken the web without realizing it,
but nearly all of them stayed on the
web, which had been there
before I arrived.

Just inside
the door of a woodshed a
week ago, I saw something similar
but noticed it before disturbing the spiders,
hundreds of them, packed into a tight, golfball
sized knot at the top of a web that ran down and
out from its apex in a cone. 
When a tool I picked
up disturbed the web, the spiders bolted from the
knot at the top and dispersed throughout the
In both cases, the spiders came
together later into another knot.
Back to the lawn mower,,,,


Only when I
was taking the  picture
did I notice the adult spider.
Those tight concentrations of babies
led me to wonder about several aspects
of parental care. 
What benefit do babies
gain by hanging around their mothers,
concentrating themselves into knots,
and dispersing quickly when their
webs are disturbed?

Their small size made
me wonder what they eat,
how fast they grow, and when they
disperse away from their mothers. 
days later the babies were gone from the mower
but the mother was still there. 
And the sheer
numbers of babies made me appreciate what
an enormous reproductive investment
it takes to keep things going in
spiders like that.

If anyone knows
the spiders
the mower,
please  let me know.
I’d like to know more about them.

Other stories
about parental investment
or the behaviour of young animals.
The Wind-hoverer
A Story for Twyla Bella
Thank you, Twyla Bella
The Deep Meaning of Creativity
Jorstad’s for Breakfast: Animal Stories
On the Diaper-changing Behaviour of Robins

Of course,
all of my stories
about Teaching & Learning
are about the behaviour of young animals!

First published in the Vancouver Observer.

Edited January 2019

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