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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Capturing a spider's web

Before you start, ask yourself if you really need to destroy a spider's web. These photos do a pretty goof job of capture. though you will need to click on the photos to see larger versions.

As you can see, there is another way to capture a spider's web, and that is with a camera.

In another entry, I have shown a web, captured at night with a flash, but I am rather fond of getting shots of webs that are covered in dew or festooned with rain drops.

The one on the left, above, is a bit different: it was attached to a road sign and catching the late afternoon sun. I had to shoot into the sun, but by moving around a bit, I had the camera in the shadow of the sign, while the web showed up well against the trees behind.

You really want to catch a web?  OK, here's how.

First up, you need the right sort of web. Leaf-curling spiders like this won't leave the web for you, so this sort of web is No Good At All.

What you need:
A large sheet of stiff black paper or cardboard, an old cardboard box, a can of white spray paint, newspaper, an assistant and a pair of sharp scissors. You can also use black paint and white cardboard, if you prefer. You can even use paper, but you need to tape it to a piece of cardboard the same size (or larger). You also need a place well away from buildings, washing or anything else that will be spoiled by a coat of paint. Talk to an adult!

Your assistant will probably need goggles and a breathing mask: think about this!

What you do:

The best place to find large numbers of spiders is in heathy bushland, close to a swamp or a creek, as there will be more insects around in those places. On the other hand, you can probably find a suitable candidate in your garden.

The week I wrote this piece, I found a suitable candidate several days in a row, stretched over the path I had to walk along to collect the morning paper. In the end, I collected it on a straw broom and moved it to a garden tree where we would not keep breaking it down.

On a calm day, about two hours after sunrise, when the dew has dried from the webs, choose a large web. If she is still in her web, persuade the spider gently to take shelter while you spray and steal the centre of her web. The paint will not be at all healthy for the spider.

While your assistant holds a large piece of scrap cardboard behind the web to catch most of the paint which misses, spray the web with paint from about 50 cm away, being careful not to paint your assistant. Do both sides, then put away the cardboard and the paint.

You only have one go at collecting the web, so choose the part which you want carefully. Push the black cardboard flat against the web, which sticks to the paper because the paint is still wet. Hold the cardboard into the web, and get your helper to cut around the edges of the web with the scissors.

Carry the cardboard indoors to a safe place and leave the paint to dry for half an hour or so while you tear down all the left-over parts of the web with paint on them, as orb weavers eat and re-use their webs. When the paint is dry, you can spray it with artist's fixative, or cover it in cling-wrap.

"Will you walk into my parlour?" said a spider to a fly.
"'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy."
— Mary Howitt (1799-1888) The Spider and the Fly.

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