Mosquito abatement

Anyone living in the gulf south knows how bad mosquitoes can be. This year, 2021, has been exceptionally wet. Besides the flooding, it’s resulted in an impressive squadron of hungry mosquitos. My signature summer scent is deet, and still I get bit.

But my mosquito bites are nothing as bad as what the chickens suffer. In spite of any measures taken to protect the flock, they cannot escape and every night are served as a meal for the swarm.

in early July I walked into one of the runs and felt the telltale tug of web. I looked for the source and there she was, a massive spider. She was hanging in the middle of a gold web which spanned a third of the run, and that web was littered with mosquitoes.

She was not alone. She was just the first one to catch a farmer in her web. Four webs had appeared seemingly overnight and now sieved mosquitoes out of the chicken coop. Each web held a massive female spider. Massive: about the size of a woman’s splayed hand. These are Golden Orb Weavers, often called banana spiders here in south Louisiana. They’re found around the globe in warm climates. Some are venomous but those found in the Americas, while able to bite, are not usually considered poisonous.

Each web is also home to one or more tiny, plain brown spiders. These are the males and once they mate the female will usually eat them.

This spider anchored her web to the top of one of the best boxes, causing her to bounce every time we gather eggs.

The web is a lovely gold color due to carotenoids in the silk. It’s strong–it can catch and hold birds–and has been used for everything from fishing nets to clothing.

So, while our four “Charlottes” may look terrifying, we’ve set boundaries, stay out of the web, and let them continue to help keep the mosquito population at bay.

A pair of the Golden Orb spiders inside the chicken run–the male is in the upper right. For scale that is a 4×4 post in the background.

Check out this fun article from Owlcation.com if you want to know more about Golden Orb Spiders.

Published by c ben-iesau

From L.A. to LA... I'm a New Orleans based artist and writer.

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