by Victor Bonilla Jr.
The natural phenomenon „Vetrarkvíði“ has received public attention this autumn. Below is a quick summary and pictures explaining this special natural wonder which superstition claims to be the forbearer of a harsh winter.
On an early autumn dawn spider-lings climb up onto a perch, point their ends up in the air and release a strand of silk which catches the air and off they go. For most of the spiderlings this is their first journey and they have traveled for possibly no more than a meter or so while others have traveled for several kilometers.
As the sun rises, the adult spiders prowl their territories, hunt and lay down their web at the same time the spider-lings land and also lay down their own web.
The low sun then illuminates the dew covered glittering sheet of silk which appears as a silver blanket. This blanket may cover large stretches of land but best seen on an even surface such as a newly mown lawn as was visible on September 26, 2006 on the lawn around „Borgir“ the science building in Akureyri.
This common „anomaly“ is considered a harbinger of a harsh winter. In many countries such as Iceland, the silver blanket which appears overnight, made by unseen entities, is supposed to signify a harsh winter season.
This delicate silver blanket reflects the golden sun rays and give it a beautiful and yet supernatural aura. An aura which in reality is just the work of a hardy little black spider possibly Erigone atra. They are efficient little hunters that quickly scamper away when they feel our thunderous vibrations. Efficient and quick enough that a hectare of meadow may contain close to a million of them but „supernatural“ enough to amaze us with this extraordinary early autumn morning view.