DEER SEASON DELIGHTS: Oh, the webs we weave…
By Mark S. McDonald
SANDERSON, Texas – In this fly-over country not too, too far from Big Bend National Park, the landscape looks empty and desolate. To some, it is just that – a lunar landscape largely forgotten by man, maybe even God.
The rugged Trans-Pecos, roughly defined as the desert east of El Paso to Del Rio, is an honest, clean patch of cactus, mesquite, cedar and limestone. But if you don’t respect this vast land, it will hurt you.
For the amateur naturalist, which includes deer hunters (or should), this desert habitat is alive with creatures. In some places, in fact, there are too many whitetail and mule deer for the fragile ecosystem to fully support, game biologists say.
One morning, when you awaken to a low cloud deck and a heavy overnight dew, you could be in for a treat: a member of the orb weaver clan has spun a web designed to capture small insects. Yum.
Spider lovers everywhere recognize the orb weaver as one of 3,006 species in 168 genera worldwide. This little unit is the Smith or Jones of Araneidae the third-largest family of spiders known (behind Salticidae and Linyphiidae.
This very rare dawn, however, study of the spider itself must wait. It is his/her construction project that attracts the deer hunter’s eye.
The web, perfect in design and function, has caught an abundance of moisture, which, in the diffused sunlight, makes it visible from 100 yards away. As project manager, the orb weaver, eagerly awaiting a winged guest for dinner, seems proud of this setup. And why not?
Over and above all the benefits listed here, the web didn’t cost the owner a dime, and it’s made of 100 per cent renewable materials.
Structural engineers, take heed.
Mark S. McDonald, editor of this site, is working on his seventh non-fiction project, “They Gave Us Baseball – Now Look What We’ve Done,” to be released in 2015. He is afraid of heights, not spiders.