12 April 2009

Easter eggs

Yesterday, Easter Saturday, I was in Brede High Woods with Ellie, our 5-year-old granddaughter and she spotted a gleaming white object in a small tree trunk cavity where a branch formerly grew.

20090411 BHW 064

It was the egg sac of a fairy-lamp spider, Agroeca, probably Agroeca brunnea which always has this characteristic shape.

I reflected how, to me (if not quite to Ellie), this Easter egg manifestation was so much more meaningful than the gold and silver paper glitz of the commercial chocolate eggs that fill the shops at this time of year.

I was struck too by the Eastertide appropriateness of the chalice-like shape of the structure reflecting the cup of the Last Supper and the gleaming white 'disc' of the lower part of the sac being not dissimilar to the white roundness of a communion wafer.

In Germany these egg sacs are called fairy lamps (Feenlämpchen) and I have therefore coined the English name for the spider myself. The only other vernacular name I can find is 'running foliage spider', which seems rather less satisfactory.

In his Gleanings from the Fields of Nature (1908), Edward Connold, who lived in St. Leonards, wrote of these fairy lamps "They first came under the notice of the writer in May 1893, when he found a large number in a wood near Hastings." I wonder if he was walking in Brede High Woods.

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