Spider hunting in the haunted barn

We went on another field trip today, to barns in Hancock. I had predicted that we’d find many more orbweavers in barns than in garages and sheds, and that’s tentatively true. We first visited a working barn, one with lots of chickens strutting around, and didn’t see a dramatic difference in the spider populations, though — I suspect that chickens are going to eat any large, bold orbweaver that exposes itself. These barns had the densest cobwebs I’ve ever seen, and lots of hidey-holes for our friends the Theridiidae, so we only saw a scattering of S. borealis and P. tepidariorum.

Then we saw the abandoned, crumbling farm down the road. “Hey, let’s go explore that!”

Preston led the way through the weeds and thistles.

This place had definitely seen better days. The ceiling was falling in, the windows and doors were gone, you could just walk in through the gaps in the walls. The floors were littered with old debris from long-gone residents. It was a sad place.

It was clearly an old dairy farm. Maya found the milking room.

Maybe we should have turned back when we found the rotting, decapitated doll. If this were a video game or a horror movie, that would be a sure sign we were on the path to Hell.

But what we found inside were…


No surprises there, I guess. We found lots of examples of Araneus cavaticus, the barn orbweaver (at least, that’s my tentative ID, first time I’ve seen these). These things are all spikey-spiney, with weird lumps on their abdomens. They were also hard to photograph, tending to curl up into nightmare balls of legs and spines when my camera lens got close. I think I saw this guy in the movie It.

We left the Araneus mostly alone, though. We came home with a few more P. tep, a couple of egg sacs, and this big hunk of a male S. borealis, who will soon be mated with one of the lovely females we have in the lab.

Then we left. I’m afraid we ignored this sign, but honestly, we didn’t leave it any messier than when we got there. We even cleaned out a few of the spiders!


  1. jacksprocket says

    Spiders apart, in North Carolina some 20 years ago we got to visit a barn. It was a visually stunning structure, and built totally of wood- the frame, the planking, the shingles, the joints made with wooden nails, the wooden hinges and bars on the doors, a perfect 16th century structure. I opined that the building must be ancient (thinking perhaps back to the 18th century). The lady confirmed that it was truly ancient, as her husband had built it when he came bak from Korea…

  2. PaulBC says

    I think spontaneous generation of creepy doll heads might be a viable theory. Anyone have a better hypothesis? If you abandon a site long enough and make sure it’s extra creepy, the doll heads just pop out of nowhere.