General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

How did this spider get its web from tree to tree?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10724points) February 13th, 2017

We have a spider that is living between trees on our lawns. The neighbors tree is about 20 feet from our tree. The single strand of web going from tree to tree started about 10 feet up in our tree, and connected to the main body of the web not the other tree about 15 feet away. The web is itself about 2 feet in diameter. The arachnid is the size of a 50 cent piece, with it’s body looking more like the size of a penny in the center of that 50 cent piece. It is dark and molted like mossy oak camo. It’s abdomen is a cross between the hour glass style and the crab style abdomens, but leaning more toward hour glass. We think it is a orb weaver.

It takes down the web at daybreak, and has shown up with the arrival of the large formosan flies that resemble mosquitoes.

How can it get the web so far apart? Is it gliding over? This seems impossible without wings.

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16 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

This is interesting. I’m fascinated by spiders. I have seen films of a spider releasing a large strand of silk, which is picked up by the wind and carried a great distance. I hope someone else will come along with a more definitive idea, but I’m betting on this one for now.

Sneki95's avatar

He took fating to a whole new level.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Just guessing that it instinctively uses any breeze to its advantage, at least to get the first line started.

We watched an orb spider spin its web on our front porch every night for a full summer. Never did catch the very beginning, though. I wondered the same kind of thing. The kids named him Spidey. You could hear him go “click click click” as it snipped strands into place. Every morning it was gone.
Then one morning Spidey was gone, and in it’s place, in the middle of his web, was a much larger spider. I shot the son of a bitch for killing our friend. SPIDEY WAS OUR ONLY ENTERTAINMENT! WE LOVED SPIDEY! Stupid son of a bitch.

snowberry's avatar

I’m guessing there’s a little breeze at the time of day when your spider is spinning its web. To do so the breeze must always be going in the same direction.

Ltryptophan's avatar

I guess if it is the breeze once it’s attached he just tightens the strand from where he is?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

They do what @Hawaii_Jake described.

“How does a spider spin a web between two trees? – Once the thread is started, the spider lifts its spinnerets into the breeze. It’s the breeze that is the secret to the spider’s ability to spin a web from tree to another.” EarthSky

They also travel long distances that way, it’s called ballooning. I’ve seen it and it’s amazing once you realize they didn’t simply accidentally fall off a branch,

“They are known to travel hundreds of miles, even ending up on islands in the middle of the ocean.” LiveScience

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Ltryptophan Yeah, tighten it then use it as a highway.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

This is a spider in the gangway by our garage. The web spanned a circle of at least 15 feet. What a huge project!



ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Probably why it is called dragline.

MrGrimm888's avatar

One of the easier ways to tell would be to see if the wind consistently blows in the direction of one of the trees to the other. If it doesn’t, or worse the wind blows through them, it would indicate that it isn’t “ballooning.”

Most spiders that set up webs nightly seem to have a decent strategy for location. The process has to be efficient. Keep in mind that the same spider will usually eat/recycle the Web in the morning. Another tedious endeavor.

It’s also possible that it anchors the Web high on one tree and simply walks to the other ,dragging the web.

They seem to have a good sense of direction, and are pretty good at walking on the ground. Their long legs make it easier for them to cover ground with heavy debris.

One summer I had a “banana spider” on my front porch. Almost walked into her in the dark. She was about the size of a hand,so I couldn’t have her living there. I moved her multiple times throughout the night. Every few hours she’d be back though. I kept putting her further away, but she kept coming back.
Finally I took her several houses away,and she didn’t make it back. But throughout the night she covered 100’s of meters repeatedly, and from different directions that I put her…

They are tireless workers. Ballooning seems most feasible, but it could just be hoofing it…

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wind doesn’t blow through trees with out blowing around them too.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^It was semantics. I poorly articulated that part. If i.e. the trees are positioned directly east and west of each other, and the wind consistently blows in one direction, it would be a strategy the spider could employ each night… If the wind blew more from the north or south,it would seem to cancel ballooning as an effective, efficient mode of moving from tree to tree.

Think of the trade winds that the Polynesian people used. The triangular wind currents made sailing easier at a time when there wasn’t much technology. Consistent wind patterns can help,or shape animal behavior. Even humans’...

I observe spiders often, and they kind of develop a pattern, and either they thrive, or die based on their initial decision. Sometimes they will move their spot,but most just stay the course. Even nightly Web builders usually stay in the same place. Although it’s obviously not as important to others that stay put.

I would wager that the spider in question sees this area as constant as far as weather patterns and maybe even direction of sunrise and sunset.
It probably doesn’t make its decision to build in a certain location consciously, or cognitively. If it thinks that’s a good spot,no task is too much. It may well walk/drag it’s anchor line the distance each night.

The ballooning tactic isn’t accurate without consistent wind. It’s more for escape, or covering large distance. It is not a controlled flight. The spider is at the mercy of the wind. It seems unlikely that every night the spider accurately plans a ballooning trip from tree to tree. If it overshoots, it will have to walk back to the first tree. With little chance of getting it right nightly,the most efficient way ,to me,would seem to simply walk the Web over each night… Lots of work, but the spider probably doesn’t consider the labor as a factor.

If the method it employs does not give it sufficient time to hang the web,and the man the web,it shouldn’t last long. It should starve to death or move on soon. The Web in question is huge though. It may catch so much food that it’s worth the effort.

snowberry's avatar

Here’s the deal about ballooning spiders. That behavior is exhibited by baby spiders (not adult ones- they’re too big) and they are carried along with the wind like the tail of a kite to take them to a new area.

What you’re talking about probably has another term (letting a line out and waiting for it to catch hold of something) but I’m not sure of the word.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

I’m freaked out by spiders, while at the same time very fascinated by them. I too have had the privilege of having in my window (outside!) for a good while, and watching her rebuild her web every night. It is so cool!

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