Michael Lawhorn first noticed a spider web near his wooden fence about a month before Halloween. He was so fascinated by the foot-size web that he got his neighbor, Rosalee Meade, interested, and she began documenting the spider and web with her camera.
The spider’s intricate web that she rebuilt each night reminded the neighbors in Glenvar’s The Highlands subdivision of the famous spelling spider, Charlotte, in the book and children’s movie, “Charlotte’s Web.”
Michael spent about an hour and a half every night for weeks watching the spider. He told his wife, Pat, that it was his “pet spider.”
Rosalee spent hours researching the spider on the Internet until she found the shaggy, red-legged creature was a “Araneas cavaticus” or barn spider, like Charlotte who lived in Wilbur the pig’s barn. Along the way the Glenvar neighbors found out more than they ever thought they wanted to know about spiders.
For instance, the barn spider:
• spins its web in a circle type shape;
• is about 3/4-inch long, with a large round abdomen;
• during the day retreats into a crevice near the web;
• is found all over the eastern part of the United States. They can be found on porches near lights, and even in caves, and, yes, you guessed it, in barns.
• will eat the web, recycle the silk and construct a new web.
Here’s the story about the neighbors’ spider watch, in Rosalee’s words: “The spider made her web by hooking it to the fence beside the house and to a light on the corner of the house over the garage. When she finished making the web, she would stay in the center of it until a bug was caught. She would rush to it and wrap it up with the web. She would eat it later.
“Michael said the two weeks he watched the spider it had gained weight. By the end of the month, she was full of baby spiders.
“Michael’s wife, Pat, told me she didn’t like spiders, but the evening I took the pictures over, she and Christin took a picture of the spider and sent it to their older daughter. Pat said her daughter was afraid of spiders, too, but she just had to send the photograph to her. She said her daughter would scream and drop the phone.”
Rosalee said the three evenings she watched the spider “was an amazing experience for me, just to make a web so perfect. It never stopped working on the web while I took pictures with flash, about 75 of them.”
After a few weeks, the Lawhorns’ spider quit spinning webs and they figure she has crawled away somewhere to lay her eggs, then die, leaving the babies to start all over next year, the neighbors hope.