Sheetweb spider sp. (Ostearius melanopygius)
In mid-December, in the Ardennes, near Rochefort, I saw a mountain of horse manure almost completely covered with spider webs. The mountain was twenty-five meters long and about two meters wide. The spiderweb stood out because it was full of dew drops. It had frozen that night and the dew had not yet evaporated. Of course I wanted to photograph details of that dewy spiderweb it looked rather surreal. I could get close enough in just a few places. With my boots I lowered over my ankles to the horse manure and the tripod was also in the manure. When I looked at it so close I discovered to my surprise that the whole web was crawling with little spiders. First thought of young spiders, but when I later looked at the photos I saw that they were indeed adult spiders. You can see that in the differences in construction. The female has a more rounded abdomen and thin palps while the male is more slender with club-shaped palps. There were actually thousands of spiders, it must have been more than ten thousand. This sheetweb spider belongs to the family of the hammock spiders. First I took some pictures of the cobwebs and the spiders. Then some dew drops and finally with a separate conversion lens an abstract photo that is more reminiscent of the universe than of spider silk. Fortunately, I was able to rinse my boots and tripod in a stream across the road. Click here or on the photo to view the entire series.