Kirsty Brown – Conservation Projects Assistant
A couple of weeks ago we were contacted by a local man wondering about something he had seen out on the moorland where the natural behaviour of an arachnid and the weather conditions had fortuitously coalesced to produce a visual phenomenon.
What he had seen were lengths of silken threads stretching over the heather as far as the eye could see, highlighted by the autumn sun catching hanging water droplets. The effect is caused by numerous spiders, often young spiders and those of the money spider family, using a method of dispersal called ‘ballooning’. The spiders climb up to a high point in the vegetation and cast out a few long threads of silk, which catch the wind and carry the tiny spiders away, and some travel for considerable distances.
When the spiders land, their long threads drape across anything they touch. The sight is most often seen in autumn and early winter when they are at their most numerous and many balloon simultaneously. The word ‘gossamer’ is often associated with the resultant shimmering visual effect.
The sight can be hard to capture by photography. If you don’t get to see the sight first hand, for the next best alternative – try here.
The local man was called Brian Clark. Luckily for us Brian is a co-founder of the Helmsley Art Centre and a runner-up in the Poetry Society’s national competition last year. So he put his impressions into words …
The only spiders nobody minds:
bringers of good fortune
who each autumn seek theirs
by shinning up heather sprigs
casting silken threads to the wind
to slip off in search of love;
minute adventurers galore
in an ocean of gossamer
high on the moors
a sun-spangled billowing
and shimmering in the breeze
spinning their luck