The Largest Spider Web in Utah

April 29, 2008 | 28 comments
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Well, probably not. But it’s certainly the biggest web I’ve ever seen, and it happens to be in my front yard so I’m especially…interested.  It covers nearly 1/2 acre (about 155′ x 120′), and it’s hard to believe from this photo, but our neighbors and passersby wouldn’t even know the web is there. It’s invisible except when the sun is low and strikes from just the right angle. You can get a sense of that knowing that the web is uniform, and only appears densest in the center of the photo because that’s where the sun strikes it right. It’s just as dense on the photo’s bottom-left as in the center, and just as sparse in the center as on the bottom-left. During the day, or from the north, south or west even at sunset, it’s impossible to see, even looking closely. We first noticed the web two weeks ago, and after it was ruined by an unusual April snowstorm, were surprised to see it reappear good-as-new within a couple days.

Actually, this is in the past tense: the web is no more. I took the photos yesterday evening before giving the lawn its inaugural mowing. The lawn had needed cutting for a while, (the neighbors and passersby probably did notice that) but I’d wanted to enjoy nature’s performance art a little longer.

Maybe the spiders are busily spinning this morning, hoping to wow us again by sunset.

1/2 acre spider web

28 Responses to The Largest Spider Web in Utah

  1. Ardis Parshall on April 29, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Um, you didn’t happen to notice a three-foot spider lurking under some juniper bush, did you? /shudder/

    That really is spectacular.

  2. Matt Evans on April 29, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I don’t know my spiders, but crouching at the side of the driveway I was able to see two of them, only a couple inches apart, suspended above the grass on the web. They’re a light greenish-brownish type that I’d guess is one of Utah’s most common house and garden spiders. It’s a kind I see all the time. I imagine the web is the product of thousands, but it would be fun if someone knows a better estimate.

    This photo gives a better sense of how hard the web is to see except when the light’s right. The web is uniformly dense across the whole lawn.

  3. Rick Grunder on April 29, 2008 at 10:49 am

    It’s the Last Days !

  4. East Coast on April 29, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Cool. We get those on our lawn sometimes and they show up best when there’s dew on them. Our webs are generally only about a foot square, though.

    Any entomologists among us?

  5. East Coast on April 29, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Excuse me, I meant:

    Any arachnologists among us?

  6. Ray on April 29, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Did they film The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter at your place? That’s a spider I’d like to avoid.

  7. Adam Greenwood on April 29, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Holy Toledo.

  8. Chuck McKinnon on April 29, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Last time I saw something like this was on the news more than five years ago. A web covering some 60 acres was spotted in Abbotsford, BC

  9. gej on April 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Terrific story. Sure is Radiant with the late sun light reflecting off it. Doesn’t nature Humble you. Must feel like Some Pig having to destroy it. Sorry. Had to do it.

  10. mmiles on April 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Is that one web or a bunch?

  11. Seth R. on April 29, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Reminds me of that old movie “Arachnophobia.”

  12. Chris on April 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    I hate spiders. With a passion.

  13. kevinf on April 29, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Matt,

    Glad you got to enjoy the glow of nature’s beauty for a while, but spiders creep me out, especially the hairy jumping wolf spiders that I used to find in my car when I lived in Utah. Mowing them all down with a large, noisy rotary power mower was the correct response. I somehow feel safer here in Washington knowing that you got them.

    Before my family moved from Utah, we once drove out on the West side of Utah Lake, and saw a field, probably 10 to 12 acres, completely covered in spiderwebs, hugely and horribly visible even when the sun was high. Along the same stretch of road another time, we drove through a cloud of grasshoppers (or perhaps the descendants of the seagulls/crickets miracle), and it sounded like hail on the front, roof, and sides of our van.

    I may have to put up with banana slugs here in Washington, but I don’t miss the spiders and bugs in Utah all that much. For the uninitiated, banana slugs are typical garden slugs, but they are not called banana slugs because they are yellow.

  14. Ray on April 29, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you, kevinf, for bringing back memories of squishing bugs in Alabama. My wife is still traumatized over ten years later.

  15. Zat on April 29, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    So, I take it no one has walked on that grass in a long, long time.

  16. meems on April 29, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Ugh. Beautiful from far away, but I’m a little creeped out by the idea of a spider web that big.

    I’m guessing you don’t have much of a bug problem though!!

  17. Frank McIntyre on April 29, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    cool.

  18. Jeff Day on April 30, 2008 at 12:23 am

    I wonder if the spiders are polygamists. How else could they be so industrious.

  19. Patricia Karamesines on April 30, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Stunning! A picture is worth a thousand webs. Err, words.

    Thanks for posting this!

  20. Heather O on April 30, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Seriously, that’s one web? I can see why you wouldn’t want to mow the lawn. I would fear the spider would come back for retribution!

    It’s wonderful, though, really. Thanks.

  21. tracy m on April 30, 2008 at 11:38 am

    I’m really hoping your didn’t let your kids play on that lawn! Scary. Ew.

    Banana slugs are cool!

  22. Tanya S. on April 30, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I’m afraid I would see this as a sign that it’s time to move. I’d be afraid there is one huge spider lurking in the bushes or many, many, many busy little spiders. Either way, they win. They can have the house. Shudder.

  23. Matt Evans on May 1, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Update from the front yard: still no sign of web last night, and there was a half-inch of snow on the lawn this morning. Now it’s raining.

  24. Matt Evans on May 5, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    The web was back last night, just as big but not as thick. They’re being cautious, now that they know their work may all come down. I won’t mow again for a few more days, but this afternoon I noticed parts of the lawn were looking dry, and programmed the automatic sprinklers for the season, to start tomorrow morning.

    Seeing how hard it is for us to co-exist makes me wonder: will there be no webs in the millennium, when the spider and fly shall lie down together?

  25. Ray on May 6, 2008 at 12:20 am

    They already lie down together. The fly just happens to be dead at the time.

  26. Jeni on May 18, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    I’m glad to see I’m not alone! I found this blog looking for ideas on why my entire yard (I’m also in Utah) is covered in the same nearly invisible silver thread. Sounds like it may be the work of funnel spiders, which are apparently beneficial predators to have…they eat the really bad bugs. Please post it if you find a different explanation. I love the “nature’s glory” spin you’ve put on it….I was just kind of creeped out :)

  27. Bill MacKinnon on May 19, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Matt,
    I hadn’t thought of it until just now, but your spider photo/story reminds me of an incident that took place in the early 1980s just after General Motors decided to site its new Saturn Corporation’s plant just outside the town of Spring Hill, Maury County, Tennessee. The property acquired had been a somewhat genteel horse farm with a long history to it. In 1864 the bloody Battle of Spring Hill had been fought on the property, and the sites for the ensuing battles of Franklin and Nashville were just down the road. These three battles were the high-water mark for the Confederacy in many ways; in one of the farm houses on the property (the Chears House) five Confederate generals had breakfast together and were all dead within hours. It was not lost on the Maury County locals that this new plant was to be built and operated by a car company from Yankeedom that might or might not give a rip about their traditions and values. With this history in mind as well as beautiful vistas of middle Tennessee farm fields and woods there, then Governor Lamar Alexander sent each member of the Saturn start-up team a large, beautiful color photo of the corn fields on the site taken with one of the farm’s weathered, rustic split-rail fences in the foreground on which was spun a perfectly symmetrical spider’s web glistening with the early-morning dew. It was a “wow” photograph of Ansel Adams quality, although he, of course, rarely used color. On each copy of the photo (they were all handsomely framed) Gov. Alexander wrote a warm welcome to Tennessee that included the message that he hoped that when the plant was constructed that the end result would be consistent with the spirit and the visuals of that extraordinary photograph. This image, especially the beauty and symbolism of the spider web’s elegance together with the governor’s message, had an enormous impact on the start-up team’s work. The Chears House was preserved rather than demolished, a forgotten (obliterated) slave cemetery was treated with great reverence and care when a bulldozer unexpectedly encountered it, and modeling was done through computer graphics before the buildings were sited and built to take into account from various heights what could be seen of them from a nearby highway (and even a railroad freight line), and the color of the plant was modeled to determine how it would blend in with the landscape at differing times of the year with differing foliage patterns. In those days General Motors didn’t always do everything right, but in terms of selecting and preparing the Saturn site it went about the task with great care, partly because of a spider’s web caught by a skilled photographer in the morning dew as well as a Southern governor who knew how to deliver a message. Interesting that Lexington, Kentucky, Saturn’s earlier first choice for its inaugural location, dropped out of the competition partly out of fear that such a large manufacturing operation with 3,000-5,000 employees would mar the beauty of its horse farms, etc. I don’t recall Utah’s governor, Norman Bangerter, having such concerns when he visted Detroit to discuss the project. All this was a warm-up for the challenges of building a transmission parts plant on the edge of the Fredericksburg, VA battlefield and the discovery of the mass grave of Napolean’s troops caught in the retreat from Vienna on the site of our new Aspern, Austria four-cylinder engine plant. No spider webs there.

  28. Alene Johnson on July 17, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    I saw webs like this while visiting SLC a few years ago–a park ranger explained to me that orb spiders come together to make these incredible webs in order to gather any moisture in the air–they are basically very thirsty and need water desperately. Interesting–I wish people could work together like that.