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Stories from the farm – a closer look at the people, the place and the bio-diversity at 5EyesFarm

Nesta - a spider story

Yesterday morning, Nesta was gone. She had been there for months. All that was left was one leg, ironic really since she was missing one leg from the start, our particular seven-legged spider. We had watched her move a couple of times. First-time she spun her web across a walkway, and it didn’t last. She walked about 20 feet towards the house and set up again. This time a storm took her web out and she must have decided she had not chosen the best home. Finally, I watched her slowly move towards the kitchen window and set up between it and the lemon tree. This seems the perfect spot and she settled in for good or so it seemed.

Just the day before we had been watching her repair her web and had discussed her long and happy life in that position right outside the kitchen window in the front garden. Mariani is laughing with Amy about me raving on about her and repeating “shelf” in broken English.
“Please be careful of Nesta there” I had told the kitchen staff early on when they went out to turn the power back on. That was the only time she would be threatened by people clumsily destroying her vast, beautiful web.

“Only two predators,” I said to DT after looking up Golden Orb Weavers. “Really, she replied distractedly. “Yea, a certain kind of wasp lures them to the edge of the web as pretend bait, paralyses them in a reverse attack and drags them off to eat them slowly somewhere dark and clammy. This is wasp playing spider – winning by using their game against them”.

“That’s terrifying,” she said, more attentive now. “Yes, unimaginable really, and so cleaver of the wasp, but in the end, it wasn’t a wasp that got her”, I went on. DT waited for me to go on. “Her leg was still right in the middle of the web like she clung on for dear life and lost it in that last moment, agonisingly and very quickly. The whole leg was there wrapped as it was in her centre web. Must have pulled out from the socket.” “Oh, it’s so savage PJ”! She said looking away. “Yea, it was a bird”, I declared after surveying the site of the scene. “A swooper came right down and pinched her and she only had time to try and hold on with that one leg. What a shame” I concluded.

On the other side of the house, there are several of her sisters in their webs, cast wide and high between branches. Such giant spiders are easy picking for birds and yet these have managed to stay for months.
“The risks of nature are so bloody and terrifying,” I said. “Humans have spent centuries walling themselves away from such scenes of war, natural violence and terrorism. We witness immense optimism and risk-taking among the smartest of the animal species. They rely on instinct, hope for the best in the great food chain as they make their homes amid predators”.

DT replied, “yea but humans wall themselves in cities and make their homes amid a different kind of predator, a different kind of terrorism. Different but no less potentially violent or criminal”. She was right. We seem to not recognise the immediate danger we are often surrounded by, maybe as a defense mechanism. “Do you think spiders are the same?” I asked her.

“Not the same species, so not the same exactly, but yea, all living things are vulnerable to predation, even from their own kinds,” she said. And went on, “These woodland spiders have tiny husbands. You can hardly see them. It is hard to imagine how they can possibly mate as she is at least 25 times bigger than he is! Still, once they do mate, she eats him, while he is still alive. So, I suppose the raw savagery of the predator is not far different from the life habits of the creature”.

“Wow, hectic”, I chirped in. Without pause, DT continued, “from a human perspective, we might think of these practices as the huntress, the cannibal, the savage. Yet this is the delicate balance of that bigger web that keeps things going in a certain rhythm despite the individual suffering and loss afflicted upon occasional individuals”.

After thinking about it for a while, I finally recalled, ” ‘Tho natures red in tooth and claw’. We humans are in conflict living away from nature and nature itself is a giant web of balance that we are all merely a small part of. There are so many things that can go wrong. Probably best to toughen up and adapt to the context wherever we are – to remain open and adventurous, to explore and be willing to discover…”

R.I.P Nesta

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