National Geographic : 2001 Aug
his fingers for detailed examination. ("When squeezed gently on the abdomen," he has written, one spider "produced a strong, some what disagreeable odor reminiscent of... lam pyrid beetles and canned string beans.") He has been bitten just once. I asked if this was because the threat of spider bites is grossly exaggerated or because he is careful about which spiders he grabs. "Both," he said. We were looking for a spider in the genus Wendilgarda,which strings a sort of tightrope across a stream and "glues" its web to running water. After an hour of searching, Eberhard called me over and said, "Here's one," indicat ing a spider smaller than a freckle, suspended above the water between the drooping leaves of a dieffenbachia. He took out the cornstarch and went pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. "Part of the zen of this is you find a thing like this and you leave it alone," Eberhard whis pered, a subtle attempt to get an outsider to throttle back and see the world in spider time. "You get a little powder on it and figure out which lines are connected to which and which plants are connected, so you can see how to move around it without disturbing it." The powder revealed 13 separate lines down to the surface, like the leaders on a fisherman's trotline. The riffle of the stream kept the end of each line skating back and forth in search of water striders. After about 15 minutes, irritated by the weight of the powder, the spider began LA SELVA The patient night angler Deinopis hangs still and twig like as a moth larva inches into range. In a flash, the predator stretches its net wide and scoops up its quarry. Lightweight silk forms the web's rectangular scaffold; woolly white threads combed from the cribellum-an extra silk-releasing organ on the abdomen of some spiders complete the elegant snare.