By Tom Johnson
Illustrated by David Clyde Walters
Ellen was looking out of her upstairs window when she noticed that Wire had found something in the back yard, and his attention was completely aimed toward the object, whatever it was. Even Blue Jay and Squirrel couldn’t pull his head away from the thing that so fascinated him.
“Now what?” Ellen said under her breath. Then she went downstairs and headed for the front door in a rush, waving at mom in the kitchen as she flashed by. Mom just grinned and went on about her morning chores.
Once outside she ran around the house to see what so interested the mischievous Wire Dog. She still couldn’t see anything at first, but saw that whatever it was must be suspended between the two posts at the edge of the back yard. Dropping down beside Wire, she finally saw it, and gasped in surprise at the beauty before her.
For there, before them, was a beautifully constructed spider web woven between the posts, and in the center was a magnificent spider of many colors.
“Wow!” Ellen gasped in delight. “This is amazing.”
“What is it, Ellen?” Wire asked, also in awe of the stunning spider within the web.
“It’s an Orb Weaver, Wire,” she said. “A spider that weaves a lovely web and then waits for prey to fly into its little home.”
“Pray, like mom and dad do every night before we go to bed?” Wire asked.
“No, Wire, it’s a different spelling. This prey means victim, in this case it’s food. The spider is an arachnid; see the eight legs stretched out from its body. That means it is different from an insect, which only has six legs.”
Just then a grasshopper landed in the web and began struggling to get free, but was held securely by the sticky substance on the web. The huge spider immediately pounced on the insect and bit it with two tiny fangs. The fat insect jerked for a minute longer, then became still, and the spider started spinning it into a cocoon.
“The spider killed it!” Wire groaned. But what is it doing now, Ellen?”
“Unfortunately, the grasshopper is not dead, Wire. The spider paralyzed it so it will live longer. The cocoon will protect it, and the spider will suck the insides out when it’s hungry. Then the shell can be discarded from its web.”
“That’s awful!” Gasped Wire. “It’s so pretty. Why is it so horrible? Why does it paralyze and then eat it alive?”
“It may seem terrible to us, Wire, but that’s nature. Think of Jay eating a live worm it finds in the ground. That’s how it survives. All creatures must eat in order to live, including us. Even though we don’t eat things alive, they once were alive, like spinach leaves and beef. Plants and animals are living things. It’s the biology of our planet. We must eat to live, as we are all living creatures.”
“Do plants eat living things, too?” Wire asked, his little eyes shining with curiosity.
“Yes, some do, Wire,” she told him. “Most get their nutrients from the ground, but there are a few, like the Venus Fly Trap, that capture live insects and dissolve them into their system to provide their nutrient needs. They are living creatures, after all.”
Accidentally touching his nose to the web, Wire jerked back quickly with a frightened look on his face, and then stared menacingly at the spider in its attractive web. “The spider could have killed me,” he said.
“No, Wire, that’s highly doubtful,” Ellen laughed. “Although the Orb Weaver is venomous, it is not deadly to us larger creatures. But that’s not saying we should let it – or anything – bite us. We could have a reaction to any bite. Even Blue Jay and Squirrel could carry something harmful to us, so we must always be careful.”
“I don’t think I like spiders now,” Wire said. “I’m sorry I found the Orb Weaver, even if it is so pretty.”
“There is beauty everywhere we look, Wire, and some of the most lovely things we find can be the most deadly. But we can admire their beauty while not touching them. There are some spiders that are very deadly, like the black widow, and they can be found most anywhere.”
“We should kill this spider,” Wire said, “before it kills something else.” I don’t want it in my yard.”
“That would be wrong, though, Wire,” Ellen shook her head. All things are necessary, that’s why we see beauty in them. And we must never forget, all life is precious. God provided food for all His creatures, and even though we may think nature is cruel at times, He has not overlooked any of His creation. The grasshopper ate the leaves from the living plant, and the spider ate the grasshopper. The spider has its enemies, as well, so life continues, and that is how it should be.
“We must not look at the cruelness of nature, don’t you see, but the beauty of God’s creation. Do you understand now why we should not kill the Orb Weaver?”
“Yes, Ellen,” Wire looked up into her face. “Because all life is precious.”