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Golden Silk Spider (Trichonephila clavipes)

Back in October, the Northeast Chapter of Louisiana Master Naturalists was hiking a trail along Africa Lake in Tensas River NWR. We were being led by one of our members, who had researched this trail and was teaching us about the flora and fauna we encountered along the way. This hike was her interpretive project, the capstone of our certification process.

She was leading us to the conjunction of the lake and its feeder stream. Turning the last bend in the trail as we approached, we were greeted by enormous cypress and tupelo trees, the purple blaze of ironweed flowers, whitetail deer tracks in the mud… and other wonders of creation. I understood it immediately as liminal space–a place where the veil between heaven and earth is thin and permeable.

And there, directly in front of us, seemingly blocking our access to a narrow, dilapidated bridge across the feeder stream: the giant golden web of an equally giant golden silk spider (Trichonephila clavipes), also commonly known as “banana spider.”

Oh, no! We wanted to cross over and explore some more. We briefly debated knocking down the web. After all, she could and would rebuild it again and be no worse off for having had to do so. But we couldn’t. We were there to share her and her space and all that Divine Love had prepared for us that day. Destroying her web seemed unconscionably violent.

So we kept looking and probing the edges of her web and, Eureka! We could just narrowly walk the very edge of the bridge and pass by her home without disturbing her. We did, twice: Over and back. What a joy.

BTW, I refer to “her” and “she” above. Sometimes when I attribute gender to wild creatures I am merely projecting a feeling I have on to them. In this case, however, I know she is a she. Male banana spiders are small, all brown in color, generally inconspicuous and mostly not visibly around in October. She probably had him for dinner after mating.

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