When my husband and I lived in Los Angeles, we lived in a little backhouse with a tiny walled-in backyard. Our tiny yard had a huge avocado tree, a fig tree, and tons of shade. It didn’t take long for me to discover that we were not the only ones inhabiting this space. SPIDERS!! Yup. Tons of ‘em. We had orb weavers and brown and black widows and sow bug eaters and…now what in the world was this little spider doing with a corpse collection in her web?? I had no idea what this spider was up to, but she had a fairly standard looking orb web, and then in front of that, she had a long line of old fly corpses and plant bits and who-knows-what, all webbed together in a disturbing and disgusting line, at the top of which, she had built a little nook for herself to hide-out in. It was awesome. So, naturally, I named her Lady Corpsington and began spying on her daily, camera in-hand. Lady Corpsington lived there, next to my back steps, for a few months before she packed up and disappeared. I was sad to see her go, but delighted to find all of her many daughters making their own corpse decorations in different spots around my backyard (and once in my kitchen window). I pretty much named them all Lady Corpsington, I guess I have a habit of doing that, because our resident opossum, Possum-O, must have introduced us to at least 4 different babies over the years, and we called them all Little-O.
So here’s what I learned:
Trashline Orb Weaver Spiders construct these “trashlines” in the center of their web to help disguise themselves…apparently trash (aka corpses) makes excellent camouflage! They also hide their egg sacs within the trash. That trashline was sitting there right next to my back door for weeks before I realized it was more than random debris stuck in an old spider web. There are numerous species of trashline spiders, and they can be found throughout most of the US…you just have to look closely at that floating debris!
This is one of Lady Corpsington’s babies. She must have chosen her web location poorly, because her trash was mostly sticks, rather than corpses (not very nutritious), and she died within a week of building her web here. She sure was pretty while she lived though! This one made more of a trash heap, and I wouldn’t have taken it for a trashline spider at all, except for the fact that I’d been stalking Lady Corpsington and all of her spawn, and I recognized that adorable fuzzy gray head and stripey body. So I guess they make trash areas sometimes too, I should alert science! This is the one who made her home in my kitchen window…yes, on the inside. It was pretty disgusting, and I probably shouldn’t have allowed it to go on right next to the kitchen sink, but by this time, I was pretty attached to the Corpsington family, and I just didn’t have the heart to disturb her. Her corpses were more in a heap than a line as well, I guess that’s a thing.
We haven’t come across any of these lovely ladies yet since moving back to Maryland, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled for debris, and so should you!