159/365 Cobwebs



A friend once told me that her aunt never cleaned cobwebs because she didn’t want to disturb the spider. The aunt respected the spider’s right to life, even in the house. My friend told her she’s crazy. By the time you see the cobwebs, the spiders had already abandoned the web. Cobwebs pick up dust and become useless. But her aunt didn’t believe her. I can imagine what the house looked like inside. Well, no I can’t.

Cobwebs. Where do they come from? I see them…and clean them away…all the time. They are not elegant in their construction like the beautiful orb-like spiderwebs you see all the time. Cobwebs tend towards corners and ceilings. Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had to sweep cobwebs off the ceiling, wipe them out of corners, and wash them off walls.

The Old English word for spider is attercoppe (attercoppe: ator, poison + copp, head) and was eventually shortened to just coppe by the Middle English period. Initially, then, cobweb was synonymous with spiderweb but as always with language, the word evolved so that it came to define only the dust-covered filaments left behind.

Cobwebs are not usually associated with webs built to capture insects. They can be drag lines from jumping spiders or perhaps left-behind filaments when a newly-hatched spider launches itself from its egg sac to be carried away on air currents. Common house spiders create loose web strands as they commute through the house as do the long-legged cellar spider. (More commonly known as daddy long legs…at least in my household.)

I always wondered if cobwebs were functional webs used to capture prey. They aren’t. So if I ever meet up with someone who doesn’t clean away cobwebs because they don’t want to disturb the spider, I can now tell them they’re crazy.


About Dezra Despain

Life is full of stories waiting to be revealed.

Posted on April 9, 2012, in 365 Days Journey Through the Past and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. me love spiders – get some nice ones arund here, tarantulas and the like πŸ™‚

    • I love spiders also. I know a few people who are arachnophobes, but it never made sense to me. A friend of mine had a tarantula as a pet and I got to hold it. It was very soft.

  2. Cobwebs are pretty awesome looking, I remember Indian summers as a kid and we would see huge webs floating overhead, on the breeze. (and they make really good clotting agents too)

    • I read that they were used for clotting! I can’t imagine gathering up cobwebs and setting them aside for medicinal purposes, but apparently that’s what they used to do. I also read that some artists use cobwebs (and spiderwebs) to achieve a particular look. I’ll have to delve into that a bit more because it sounded fascinating.

  3. Great story and photo. I have yet to capture a spider web or a cobweb. 😦

    • I’ve only had three encounters with spiders where I got a decent photo; one was of a spider itself, one of a spiderweb, and this one. You would think cobwebs would be easy to find because they are ubiquitous. But they aren’t! I’m sure I will eventually post my spider and my spiderweb, but for now, we start with a cobweb.

  4. Good write up. You could have added that cobwebs actually deter other spiders from setting up their homes there. Perhaps spiders like a clean house as well and don’t care for fixer uppers. =)

    Sorry could be poor humor there…. Just a bulwark pest control guy.

    • Well, you should know! πŸ™‚ Actually, I heard from someone who heard from someone who read somewhere that spiders don’t like dirty webs and will abandon them rather than fix them up. I sure hope the spider real estate market can support all of the new construction.

  1. Pingback: Spring means Spiders - Get Spider Control | #PCO News - Bulwark Ext

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