The girl in my window

>> Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some time in the past few days, a young lady has taken up residence in my near vicinity, and I've found her in my front window quite a lot lately. She's subtle, she is, inconspicuous to the point I tend to forget about her, only noticing when I'm turning all the lights out to go upstairs to bed. And when I do, there she is. She's resilient but flighty, too: I thought storms this week had left her all but homeless and without livelihood, but I've gathered she's prone to wrecking her home and starting over every night even in fair weather. She's there again tonight. I'm not sure if she's watching me or not.

Last night, and the night before, I took a few photos. I hoped they would help me identify her. I wasn't subtle, I was practically in her face, only separated by the glass; the storm window made it hard to get a clear shot of her--often all I got was a photograph of the flash going off--but here are a few of the pics I took of the mystery woman (focus and lighting is poor in all of them--a tiny thing shot through a storm window against the dark night, it's no wonder):

But now here's the question: who is she? She's an orb-weaver, that part is simple. Her house is not a cobweb or a funnelweb, she lives at the center of a nice, flat, relatively orderly spiral when she's at home. That only narrows it down to a few thousand species.

At first I thought she was Araneus cavaticus, the common barn spider. I based the assumption on her markings and, well, the commonness of the barn spider. But then, after looking around some more, I began to lean towards Neoscona crucifera, a common resident North Carolinian, especially after looking at the images on this page (there are four photographs of crucifera in the second section from the top, captioned "Araneidae - Orb Weavers").

Here's the problem: it turns out that identifying a spider based on coloration and markings is a useless effort according to some experts. Identifying a spider really involves a microscope. And I have to admit--aside from the difficulties I might have trying to catch this young lady, I also don't want to intrude on her life much more than I already have. She's beautiful, she keeps to herself and hasn't made any noise or thrown any parties, and if she happens to eat a mosquito or two I will consider her a strategic ally.

(The struggles of an another arachnophiliac photographer can be read about in this article full of pretty awesome photographs. This author got some extremely nice, in focus, unobstructed by glass photographs and consulted a small library of books--and still found it impossible to come up with firm identifications he was happy with. The truth is that there are a lot of spider species with enormous variation within each species, such that identification and classification even challenges the experts.)

Any of you have any thoughts as to who my new neighbor is? Yes, I know I just said identification is nearly impossible, but I'm also willing to put it to a vote: do you think my little friend is cavaticus or crucifera, or perhaps something else entirely? Any guesses...?

(And before anyone makes the obvious joke: to date she has not used her home as a blackboard for messages about pigs or things that are nice. Sorry if that ruins anyone's fun....)


Tania Friday, July 25, 2008 at 12:25:00 AM EDT  

The science geek in me says "neat". The person who appreciates good photography says "awesome pictures".

And the Tania that is creeped out by spiders* and has a whole bunch of spider bites is going "ick ick ick ick ick".

*intellectually, fascinating creatures. viscerally, creep me out.

Random Michelle K Friday, July 25, 2008 at 9:48:00 AM EDT  


Too many legs! Too many legs!

But also, Neat!

Eric Friday, July 25, 2008 at 10:29:00 AM EDT  

If four legs good, two legs bad, then eight legs twice as good. Or doubleplusgood, if you'd like.

Logic is fun!

Random Michelle K Friday, July 25, 2008 at 1:01:00 PM EDT  

Four legs is ok. Anything more than four legs squicks me out.

As in, you want to make me run screaming, find a centipede. One of the ones with the really longs legs.

OK. I may need to throw up now.

However, things with no legs don't bother me at all.

Jeri Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 12:16:00 AM EDT  

Spiders don't bother me at all, and I find their webs beautiful and fascinating.

I don't, however, have any insight into identifying them, I've never tried to do that

Great photos, especially under the circumstances.

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