Dianne’s Creature Feature

Oh, what a tangled web: Laguna’s spiders weave works of art


When someone mentions webs, I picture the scene in the original 1958 The Fly movie, when Vincent Price discovers the ill-fated Dr. Andre Delambre (well, not exactly, only his small head, shoulders and one arm on a fly body) caught in a spider web in a garden crying, “Help me, help me.” 

I’m having a similar out of body experience tackling the subject of webs. They’re miraculous and complicated feats of engineering, and again, Lenny Vincent, AKA, The Spiderman, provided expert information that will hopefully untangle the mysteries.

However, there is no mystery to the picture below, and this web can only be described as a survival web. “Not exactly beautiful, but what can you expect from a black widow living in the entrance to a rodent burrow,” says Lenny. “I found this guy a day or two after the 1993 Laguna Beach fire. It survived by hunkering down within the burrow until things cooled off.” 

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Photo by Lenny Vincent

Black widow living in a rodent burrow during the 1993 Laguna Beach fire

Although there are many types of webs, Lenny narrowed it down to the three most commonly encountered in Laguna: funnel webs, orb webs, and lattice-like webs. But first, it might be helpful to talk about the silk (there are up to seven kinds) spiders use. Depending on the function in the web (strong, delicate, sticky), a different type emerges from silk glands in the spider’s abdomen by way of spinnerets. 

Granted, web construction is a serious architectural endeavor, the spider’s survival depends on the ability to build an ideal trap. And they do it very well, constantly repairing and rebuilding (only to have it blown away by a strong wind or smashed by a broom). 

In housing terms, the first web would be considered a tiny house, (with built in trap lines). “Funnel webs are among the most common and conspicuous spider webs to be observed in Laguna Beach. They consist of a flat horizontal sheet of densely woven, non-sticky silk that leads to a funnel shaped silken retreat. Many individual silk lines extend upward from the sheet to the vegetation,” says Lenny. “These lines are used to knock down flying prey.”

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Photo by Lenny Vincent

Agelenopsis aperta eating a ctenuchid moth

Lenny explains, “In Laguna, we have two common genera of funnel web weavers. Those in the poorly defined genus Hololena are most often found in great abundance in shrubbery. The adults are mostly brown in color and about one-half inch in length. A much larger funnel web weaver, Agelenopis aperta, is typically found closer to the ground and in a larger web. A. aperta is most often seen in the undisturbed, natural areas surrounding Laguna. Funnel web weavers tend to lurk in the funnel portion of their web and only rush out when prey is detected.”

Which is good news, because these funnel webs are abundant in the Laguna Wilderness Park, so many in one spot, they sometimes look like a condominium complex.

Next we move on to what could be called the tract houses, orb webs. “If you walk into a face full of web at night, chances are it is one of the orb weavers’ webs. N. crucifera along with Araneus gemma are the two most common nocturnal orb weavers in Laguna Beach,” Lenny says. “The abundant silver garden spider Argiope argentata tends to weave lower to the ground.”

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Photo by Lenny Vincent

Neoscona crucifera on orb web, Sept 24, at Village Green Park in South Laguna

Orb webs are wheel-shaped, featuring outer bridge lines with internal anchor lines pulled down to create spokes. An elastic capture thread is used to make the spiral lines that connect the spokes together, giving the web the ability to absorb an oncoming insect. The spirals are peppered by sticky droplets to secure the victims. If conditions are favorable, up to 250 insects can be collected in one day.

Like artistic embellishments, some spiders, e.g. the silver garden spider, add a bit of flourish to their webs, zig zags, spiral or bands called stabilmenta, but the purpose is unknown. One wonders why, to camouflage their appearance in the web, to help trap the prey or simply to express some type of individualism? Custom abode versus tract house? 

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Photo by Lenny Vincent

Bolas spider 

A descendant of the orb weaver is a maverick in its non-conventional approach to snaring insects. Instead of building a web, the Bolas (named after a traditional South American throwing weapon) holds a sticky globule at the end of a silk thread on its leg and throws it at its all-male moth prey. Less work than a web it seems, but they must have good aim.

If you’ve ever observed a lacy web, it’s most likely the lattice-like web which belongs to the gray house spider, Badumna longingua, says Lenny. “The spider is non-native, having been introduced from Australia. It is very abundant in Laguna Beach. The lattice-like web often ends in a tubular retreat. In this case, a piece of pipe. They are very easy to see against a black background, such as a black, plastic flower pot. Very common in gardens but not natural areas.” This tubular retreat can’t be described using a housing term, it looks more like a straw-sized coffin. A dwelling of sorts.

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Lenny Vincent

Lattice-like web built by gray house spider, tubular retreat is at the top

Even though Lenny has categorized the webs, their properties, and spider inhabitants, it remains impossible to understand the cognitive skills required to craft them, particularly the orb web. It will forever remain a mystery how these small creatures can engineer such architecturally extravagant and precise works of art. 

And contrary to what we’d like to believe, it’s not just because they live in Laguna. It’s speculated that orb webs came into being with the evolution of flying insects more than 100 million years ago. I guess that means they’re here to stay.

For all you ever wanted to know about spiders, go to Lenny’s spider guide website, http://ocspiderguide.com/

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.

Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

St. Mary’s Church’s annual Blessing of the Animals and bratwurst lunch takes place Sun Oct 8

St. Mary’s Church’s annual Blessing of the Animals and Bratwurst lunch takes place Sun Oct 8. It’s a fun service during which pets (or pictures of pets) and their humans are given a special blessing by the priest in charge, Fr. Lester Mackenzie.

Submitted photo

The outside service is perfect for the furry, the feathered, and the scaly

The service is at 10:30 a.m. in the upper garden behind the church (across the alley). Animals are welcome to attend the whole service.

Lunch, at around noon, includes a bratwurst sandwich, salad, dessert, and a beverage. The cost is adults $10, kids $5. St. Mary’s Church is located at 428 Park Ave.

Surf Industry unites to raise $30,000 for Waves For Water to aid Puerto Rico after hurricanes

Led by the SIMA Humanitarian Fund, the surf industry is coming together to help the victims of both Hurricane Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico. They have set a goal of raising $30,000, and all funds will be routed to Waves For Water, who is already on the ground in PR working to secure access to clean drinking water in the most impacted and neglected areas of the US Territory.

The water filters deployed by Waves For Water can serve clean drinking water to a family of 10 for over a decade. So far, Waves For Water has 1,500 filters on the ground, and the funds raised through this appeal will provide for additional filters as well as staff and travel to train the local communities on how to best use them.

“Surf culture and the surf industry have a long history with Puerto Rico, starting with the Fourth World Surfing Championships held there in 1968,” said Dylan Slater, President of the SIMA Humanitarian Fund. “The people, the surfing community and the surfing industry have been significantly impacted by these storms, and we feel an obligation to do what we can to help them get back on their feet.”

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Waves For Water provides water filters for access to clean drinking water

SIMA members, industry brands, surf industry employees and vendors are encouraged to join together to donate under this appeal via a donation page set up and maintained by the SIMA Humanitarian Fund. In order to expedite funds to Waves For Water, the deadline to donate is 5 p.m., PDT, Wed, Oct 11.

“It’s really tough down here right now. Disaster response work is always a game of logistics, but the widespread scale of impact from this one is almost unprecedented. It’s not just one place that was affected – island after island is wiped out,” said Waves for Water founder Jon Rose, who is on the ground in the Virgin Islands. “Our priority right now is focused around providing access to clean drinking water to help preserve life and prevent disease.”

The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) is the official working trade association of more than 300 surf industry suppliers. Founded in 1989, SIMA is a non-profit organization that serves to promote awareness of the surf industry and participation in the sport of surfing through public relations efforts and a variety of services, educational programs and research.

For more information, contact Shannon Park Zseleczky at 949-366-1164, ext 5, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To donate to Water For Waves, go to http://sima.com/support-puerto-rico-hurricane-relief/

Surfrider urges residents to attend free event warning of possible offshore oil drilling

On Monday Oct 9 from 6 to 8 p.m., Surfrider will present “Offshore Oil Drilling and the Threats to Southern California” at The Woman’s Club, 286 St. Ann’s Drive. The event is free and open to residents of every age. 

Oceana and the Laguna Bluebelt urge all who care about the future of our ocean and coastline to “please attend, get informed and get ready.”

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Photo credit Joshua Shelley

Waves were pocked with oil during the Santa Barbara oil spill

Our Pacific waters off of Laguna Beach are now under threat of new oil and gas leases, note Surfrider and Laguna BlueBelt. Under the current administration, President Trump has called for re-evaluation of the federal five-year national oil and gas leasing plan. 

Offshore oil drilling and inevitable leaks, spills and major accidents can happen at every stage of oil exploration, production and transportation, as witnessed in 2015 with the Refugio/Santa Barbara spill, as well as several monumental accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon spill. 

Panelists Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director of Surfrider Foundation, and Nancy Hastings, Campaign Orgnaizer for SC Oceana, will talk about our coastline and regional ocean environment and economy now facing many similar risks and answer questions about ways to prevent offshore oil drilling along our coast.

Moon over Laguna

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

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Simply beautiful – the moon, Wednesday Oct 4, 2017

“No Sleep till Brooks Street” – but it could be time for a nap after this weekend

“We’ve been monitoring a storm in the underworld for the past week now and it’s lining up perfectly to get the 54th Annual Brooks St. Surfing Classic in the water this weekend!” says Brandy Faber, Brooks St. Classic Contest Director. 

“Considering how flat it has been lately and how late we are into the Classic’s waiting period the forecasted SSW swell will be a much needed relief.” 

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Brook Street Classic 2014

This is what Surfline forecasts for Brooks St. this weekend: 

Building/peaking Saturday, holding pretty good size all day Sunday. Brooks should be in the shoulder-overhead range for the most part (4-6’ faces) with occasional sets up to a couple feet overhead. In terms of Southern Hemi swells, this one looks like it will be on the more consistent end of the spectrum. It’s also a pretty good direction for Brooks.

The NW swell-mix running may offer an occasional peakier wave, but should not have a negative impact on the size of the SSW swell.

Faber urges surfers to get down to Brooks bright and early Saturday morning to sign up as the contest will be starting early.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

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