Do you remember the children’s story about a spider and a pig who become friends? I only vaguely remember it, but I do remember that, in the end — spoiler alert — Charlotte dies.
I’ve had a real life Charlotte living on the outside of my bathroom window for weeks. I can see her web from where I sit at my desk, and I’ve been fascinated by her. She originally constructed her web between the stakes of some cucumber plants we had growing in a box. When the cucumbers died and we cleaned out the box, she moved to the window. I’ve been watching her she since was tiny.
I’ve seen these kinds of spiders for years. We always called them garden spiders. I only recently found out they are also known as zipper spiders, zigzag spiders, or sewing machine spiders because of the pattern they weave into the center of their web.
I also read that they will lay their egg sac on a hard surface nearby.Being on the outside of the window meant I could see her from both sides. I watched in fascination as she wrapped up and devoured a cicada. She worked him all day, then kicked out his empty carcass.
One day the egg sac appeared attached at the top of the window, looking something like a teardrop-shaped boxing bag.
I decided we would leave her alone. The eggs won’t hatch until spring, and she was doing no harm.
Eventually a second sac appeared. Then I watched as she got fatter and fatter, and a couple of weeks later, her largest egg sac was constructed.
She constructed her little nurseries at night, so I never saw them until they were done, although I did capture a video of her winding wispy strands of webbing around her collection. She would tend to her work, then return to the center of her web. Occasionally she would deconstruct the whole thing and start over.
Earlier this week I noticed she had moved up to the top of her web and seemed to be hanging out there. Then egg sac number five appeared. She worked on it for a few days, but this time she didn’t return to the center of her web; she just hung around at the top, near her latest little nursery.
I figured her days were numbered. The nights are getting cool — sometimes downright chilly — and I knew her food supply was probably running short. Yesterday I observed that she was somewhat curled up. These spiders are usually fairly flat, with legs stuck straight out. She didn’t look well.
This morning, she’s gone. Her work is done and her life is over. I watched her grow from a baby to an adult and carefully lay the foundation for the future, a future she won’t be part of. I’m actually a little sad.
But now those egg sacs have to go.