The Mystery of the Old Gazebo

The other daaaay, we’d gone walking around the Pomme de Terre river, and just off the bike trail there is an old gazebo. It’s weathered, lichen-covered, and a bit creaky, but it’s also covered with spectacular orb webs, so we were curious to find out who was living there.

We poked around, and a couple of spiders scurried out, but I was baffled…the ones we caught didn’t look like orb weavers, they seemed to be Theridion, or social cobweb spiders. I guess they’re just lurking, taking advantage of any small prey caught in another spider’s web. The actual weavers of those webs couldn’t be found anywhere. I suspect the reason for that is that smack in the middle of the gazebo is a swallow’s nest, so any reasonably large spider is going to hide during the day an only emerge at night.

We’re tempted to revisit at night, except that another feature of the gazebo is all the hearts and INITIALS+INITIALS carved into the wood. We might interrupt more mammalian activity.

OK, so we looked around elsewhere. The orb weavers are starting to appear everywhere, but most are very tiny, building the cutest little orbs that might be a couple of centimeters across in the greenery.

Very tiny. It’s also a bit breezy, so they’re practically vibrating in their webs. My approach was to use a fast shutter speed and multi-shot, then hope that it least one of the images was in focus. Like this.

We also spotted lots of itty-bitty ground spiders, like one scurrying across the hand of Professional Spider Hand Model, Mary Gjerness Myers.

My Professional Spider Hand Model also has sharp eyes, and she noticed a few more of those Social Cobweb Spiders hanging out on a rusty signpost.

Also quite small. When we came home, Professional Spider Hand Model and Laser Eyed Spider Scanner took a while to cool down and turn off, so she also found that our garden was growing lots more orb weavers and tetragnathids.

Check out your environment! Park benches, gardens, random surfaces around your house are accumulating spiders at a rapid rate!

As usual, there are more photos that can be seen on my Patreon page and Instagram. I’m hoping to turn Mary into an Instagram Influencer with these closeup photos of her skin, we could use the money.


  1. robro says

    Do lizards eat spiders? We’ve got tons of lizards.

    We’ve also got plenty of spiders around…in the house, the garage, the carport, and around the garden…but I’m not adept at remembering the details or recognizing them.

    For example, it’s taken me 25 years to learn to recognize poison oak. On a walk just the other day with my wife, who has spent years trying to help me recognize them because she’s highly allergic, I spotted acres of them and in their several forms: sprigs and stems, bushy shrubs, ground vines, tree truck vines, etc. I got a “good job” from her.

  2. blf says

    Oh, so that’s were it is! Several yonks ago, the mildly deranged penguin was “experimenting” with ballistically-assisted ballistic trebuchet launches — one trebuchet would launch another, which would then launch its payload mid-flight — and for the ultimate payload, used a wooden basket typically used locally for strawberries. It all “worked” in the sense the ex-strawberry basket achieved FTL travel (without the Earth being sucked into more than one black hole). Whilst it is known the “basket” did return to Earth, the where, when, and as what are all uncertain. Even the black hole is puzzled.

    She (the mildly deranged penguin) suspects the alleged “gazebo” is one of the strawberry remnants from that basket. The explanation why is too large to fit in this comment.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … another feature of the gazebo is all the hearts and INITIALS+INITIALS carved into the wood. We might interrupt more mammalian activity.

    You might put up a spycam or two. The resulting images could be of significant biological interest, and potentially remunerative.

  4. says

    I’m sorry, I can’t get past the river’s name. Did someone call it the Potato River at some point and someone else thought they could class it up by making it French?

  5. jrkrideau says

    @ Tabby Lavalamp
    Pome de Terre River? I imagine Canadien voyageurs out of Montreal, working for various fur trading companies got there first.

    Look at Detroit, (Détroit) for example as a name.

  6. robro says

    I noticed the name, too, and thought how interesting. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

    Pomme de terre is French for potato, a food Indians harvested in the area. Before the French explorers, the Osage people, who were historically indigenous to the region, had called it a name meaning Big Bone River, referring to the fossils of mastodons and other ancient creatures which they found along its eroding banks.

    I like “Big Bone River” as much as “Pomme de Terre”. Wonder what the Osage version of that would be.

  7. says

    You know, the first Europeans to claim Minnesota — in 1679, a while back — were all French. It was probably named in their native tongue.

  8. says

    Ah, now you’ve done it PZ. You’ve brought up … THE GAZEBO!

    ED: You see a well groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo.
    ERIC: A gazebo? What color is it?
    ED: [pause] It’s white, Eric.
    ERIC: How far away is it?
    ED: About 50 yards.
    ERIC: How big is it?
    ED: [pause] It’s about 30 ft across, 15 ft high, with a pointed top.
    ERIC: I use my sword to detect good on it.
    ED: It’s not good, Eric. It’s a gazebo.
    ERIC: [pause] I call out to it.
    ED: It won’t answer. It’s a gazebo.
    ERIC: [pause] I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does it respond in any way?
    ED: No, Eric, it’s a gazebo!

  9. robro says

    PZ Meyers @ # 7 —

    You know, the first Europeans to claim Minnesota — in 1679, a while back — were all French.

    Practically speaking, yes, but technically the first Europeans to “claim” almost all of the “New World”, including Minnesota, were the Spanish. This was settled by the Treaty of Tordillas in 1494. The French came much later and were basically interlopers similar to the English and the Dutch.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    robro @6:

    Wonder what the Osage version of that [potato] would be.

    To or toe. ‘Topeka’ means ‘Place where we dug potatoes’.

  11. chrislawson says

    If the French named everything there, why isn’t it Minnesoteur?

    Checkmate atheists.

  12. magistramarla says

    Here in California, I’ve been seeing spiders on my patio and in my garden for months. Some of them are good sized. As we were walking up to the front door yesterday, I paused on my forearm crutches to wait for a fair-sized spider to cross the walk in front of me so that I didn’t step on it.