Paean to Webs

September Webs 1 Looking back at my unfaithfully maintained and updated Flickr image gallery, first started in 2004 when a blog buddy offered me a free Pro account–there have been quite a few webs to find their way this time of year onto my monitor screen and into my photo archives.

Each marks an intense moment of focus, wonder and appreciation for design and pattern in nature.

Each web in all the photographs in this “webs” Flickr search from my archive is the product of a spider-mind guided by a long genetic-behavioral play book assembled over eons.

Each web in these images was likely created fresh, the night before the (typically morning) images were gathered.

Why mornings? For the illuminated webs against hillside still in darkness. And for the wonderful dew that, when not too heavy, makes the web visible–like fiber optic threads–without weighting them down.

Too wet, and the least breeze can breach them.

Mornings, because the grasshoppers have not yet punched holes through the grand design, or leafhoppers and midges speckled the bull’s eye with knots of random-tangled spider web-breakfast bits caught in the outer orbitals.

All the more reason to appreciate them: this weekend, finally, the pasture where most of these images were found will be cut for hay.

Thereafter, the beauty of the field lies in its vantage point for star gazing from a blanket. And the seasons march on, as spider-wise webs and distant constellations come and go. And come and go again.


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I, too, have loved seeing your web photos all these years. I am curious about what makes the center of this one so thick and white. Thanks for linking us to the flicker set!

  2. Orb weavers typically “live” in the center of the web that is 1) a reinforced floor underneath them and 2) somewhat opaque as a hiding place. Those are my guesses to explain this fact. Why some of them “write” below this center area I have no clue. But I suppose that activity inspired the spider in Charlotte’s Web to become such a great communicator.