Spider Sticks

I met a woman I didn’t know while walking in the woods yesterday. We each had a dog and were walking toward each other waving sticks up and down. When we met, we both burst out laughing. It wasn’t a cult ritual nor dousing for water. These were our spider sticks.

In the fall, when spiders are busy making plans for winter, they string their webs from tree to tree, without regard to where the paths are and who might be walking them. You seldom see the spiders, but occasionally I’ll find one hanging from my hat brim. I love what spiders are and what they do, but frankly, don’t like them on me. It’s irrational I know, but just can’t quite get past that silly fear.

My spider stick

So, we walk with spider sticks, waving them to catch the webs instead of letting them wrap themselves around our faces. Without a spider stick, you risk coming out of the woods looking like Frodo in the Hobbit when the giant spider wrapped him up in silk.

Spiders are amazing allies in the garden. They consume countless aphids, flying pests and even slugs that can wreak havoc on our plants. So protecting and tolerating them is definitely in our best interests. Their presence makes garden easier.

Garden Orb Spider (my friend)

Spider silk is one of the wonders of the world. It’s ethereally light and almost as strong as steel. It’s sticky (why it’s so hard to get off your face), and is used for transport, lodging and trapping prey. Most of the silks across the trail are the lines tossed into the wind to make a way for the spider to move through the trees without having to walk down a tree, across the path and up another tree. For fascinating details about the silk (and some creepy photos), check out Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating by Catherine Craig.

I’ve started timing my walks so that someone else has already been on that path. Hopefully, with their spider stick, they’ve cleaned out all the webs spun during the night. And yes, there is a spider that shoots silk just like Spiderman. It just doesn’t live around here (look out, Floridians).

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