THE ORB WEAVERS by Shiela Fuller

Spiders are fascinating creatures.  On one hand, they can scare the dickens out of us; on the other hand, they create wondrous webs to behold.  and, they do a lot to reduce the population of pesky flies and mosquitoes.  Here is Shiela Fuller with an informative post on orb weavers:

The orb weavers are spiders that can be found throughout the world and as close as your own backyard. If you look outside your window at night, in late summer or early autumn, perhaps you will see their masterful web creation attached to your front porch or eave. This is because many orb weavers tend to build webs attached to human structures. Their webs are large and comprised of concentric circles that radiate outward with an occasional “zig zag” portion, called stabilimenta. Studies have shown that webs containing the stabilimenta catch 34% fewer insects but these visible decorations are damaged less frequently, keeping the webs intact longer.

If you’re familiar with the orb web-building spiders, did you ever notice that the web is sometimes gone during the day? That is because many orb weavers build a new web every day. Orb weavers are nocturnal hunters and as evening approaches they will come out from their hiding location, eat the old web, rest, and then spin a new web in the same location.
They may bite if they are forced to defend themselves but in general are a gentle spider. The bite is not poisonous and no more painful than a bee sting for most folks.
Orb weavers are often identified by their brightly colored, rounded abdomens, and some have angled bumps or spines. When visible in the web, the spider is usually resting head down and waiting for prey.     Triple oaks spider

This argiope photo is a good example of a common orb weaver found in the backyard garden. It’s brightly colored, its head is facing downward, and the stabilitmenta is clear to see in the web.

If you’re lucky enough to have an orb weaving spider building a web near or on your front porch, or in your garden, enjoy and marvel in the creation. The orb weaver rarely lives for more than one season and while they’re here, they’ll aid in reducing pesky insect populations like mosquitoes.

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

As part of National Picture Book Month, here are two PB’s about some extraordinary Orb Weavers:

  1. The classic CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E B White tells the story of an amazing pig as seen through the eyes – and web designs – of Charlotte, a spider who weaves words into her webs.
  2.  A new take on “weaving outside the normal web design” comes from a delightful PB called SEAVER THE WEAVER by Paul Czajak  2014-08-25 02.30.30

Animals as Fictional Characters by Jody Staton

Books, most especially children’s books, are full of all sorts of animal characters. Their portrayals cover a long continuum, from completely realistic, to being so anthropomorphized that the animals are depicted as nearly human.

In Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie, the title character is a mutt. When ten-year-old Opal Buloni encounters him running loose in a grocery store, his scruffy charm wins her over. He’s a real dog, no fantasy about him, and yet even in this most realistic of contemporary middle-grade novels, he has a touch of humanness about him: “Winn-Dixie looked up at me while I was telling him everything, and I swear he understood,” Opal says. That’s not a surprising thing for a child to say, and yet how many of us have thought the same thing about our pets?
Published by Candlewick Press in 2000, Because of Winn-Dixie was a Newbery Honor Book in 2001.     winn dixie

In DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux the animals are mostly anthropomorphized. Despereaux and his fellow mice show a range of imagined human characteristics, as do the rats in the story. Although their behavior is consistent with the nature of their species, they talk among each other and to a small extent to the humans in their story. The mouse families act like human families, and their social structure includes a Mouse Council with the power to discipline individuals who don’t obey the social codes of their community.
The Tale of Despereaux, published in 2003 by Candlewick, won the Newbery in 2004.

Falling somewhat between the two DiCamillo books in degree of the humanizing of its characters is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Ivan, from whose point of view the story is told, is a gorilla living in a cage in a dreary mall. He talks to the other animals in his exhibit, primarily the elephants, old lame Stella and baby Ruby, and to Bob, a feral dog. None of them speak to the humans. But Ivan is an artist, drawing crude pictures with the crayons and paper given to him by Julia, the daughter of the mall’s janitor.These pictures become a form of communication that ultimately lead to the transfer of Ivan and Ruby to a zoo after Stella’s death, reflecting what Stella had once said: “A good zoo is how humans make amends.”

The One and Only Ivan, published by Harper in 2012, won the Newbery in 2013. Applegate also wrote and/or edited Scholastic’s popular Animorph books, a series of adventures in which teens morphed into animals—perhaps the exact opposite of anthropomorphy?

Whether an animal drives a car, like the eponymous mouse in E.B. White’s Stuart Little, stuart littlered ponyor is totally, starkly realistic, like Gabilan in John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony, animal characters can add an extra dimension to fiction. They remind readers not only what it means to be human, but also that the real natures of animals are not so very different from ours.
Johanna Bilbo Staton, known to everyone as Jody,  Jodyis half English, half hobbit. She was a circus aerialist in high school, an English major at Rollins College, took the Radcliffe-Harvard Publishing Procedures Course, and got her masters in magazine journalism at Northwestern University. She came to Philadelphia as an editor at Jack and Jill magazine, married Rich Staton, and moved to New Jersey. When Christopher and Valerie came along, she switched to freelance copy editing, which she still does. She writes mostly middle-grade fiction, usually about animals, and either history or fantasy or both. She is working on a blog about animals in fiction.