Lake Ontario Log Online

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January 27, 2017     Post 83
Spiders ashore and afloat

Spiders are everywhere both on the beach and on the boat,too. The photos are of a common wolf spider species that resides under pebbles and logs. The one on a pebble has her children with her.

They thrive in our insect rich littoral environment. What do they eat, a friend once asked. Their webs suggest they eat midges and mosquitoes. But how do spiders get aboard a moored boat? They don't have wings.

Baby spiders don't fly but they do float. On air. I often see multitudes of them on a gentle sunny afternoon while sailing the lake in late summer. Back on shore on just the right day, a billion tiny spiders climbs up a weed or a grass blade. Each spins a gossamer thread of silk. The thread then lifts the spiderlet aloft on a passing zephyr. The tiny aeronaut sails away sometimes traveling hundreds of miles.

On such a day the sky fills with countless shimmering backlit silver threads. Sometimes hundreds of shimmering strands snag the boat's shrouds and stream aft.

Infant arachnids play the lottery. Each fall ten of million of midget spiders float away out over Lake Ontario only to land in the drink and perish. A hundred lucky ones snag my boat's rig. Then they settle in to continue their sailing careers. Soon they grow up to produce more spiders.

Within a few weeks they're big enough to notice. By next summer they're big fat and juicy and very industrious. Leave the boat for a few days and she's covered with a boat wide web. The busy weavers especially like the sail covers and the stern structures- life sling bag, throwable ring, stern pulpit to hide in. Sara B the schooner, offers them a multitude of places to set up housekeeping with her complex rig. Even the dead eye holes harbor tiny passengers. She's a floating spider city. Big and small, mottled brown, gray, black, long legged, stocky, even a few of the little zebra striped jumpers call her home by summer's end.

We fight back. We pluck them from the sail covers evict them from the galley, stomp on the residents of the coiled mainsheet and toss them to the hungry sunfish that hide beneath the hull. Last summer a mud dauber wasp took up residence aboard, feeding on the rich bounty. The mild mannered wasp did her best, stuffing her compartmented nest with dozens of spiders for her own babies to feed on. But she didn't make much of a dent in the population.

The best solution is frequent prolonged use of the boat. Go cruising. The spiders go into hiding. Some are shaken loose or washed away during a vigorous day of rail down sailing. But if you leave the yacht for just a few days, the webs return.

Clearly persistence pays for the eight legged sailor crowd as they weave their webs of life. As the Dalai Lama says, Never give up.

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