Ask Dr. Universe: Why do garden spiders hang upside down in the middle of their webs?

Washington State University

Dear Dr. Universe: Why do garden spiders hang upside down in the middle of their webs? – Abree, 10, New Jersey

Dear Abree,

That’s a great observation. Garden spiders and other orb-weaver spiders crawl all around their webs, but we often see their heads pointing down toward the ground.

My friend Todd Murray, an entomologist at Washington State University, told me about a group of scientists who had a question a lot like the one you’ve asked.

These scientists used mathematical models to learn about orb-weaver spiders and how they move around the web. They discovered spiders that wait with their head down for prey can reach prey faster than spiders that wait with their head up for their prey.

While there are exceptions, this position gives spiders an advantage when getting food. Sometimes, prey will hit the top of the web but end up tumbling to the bottom of the web. A spider higher up on the web with its head facing down would be able to see prey below. Gravity also helps spiders as they run down the web.

Murray reminded me how different kinds of spiders can make different webs. Orb weavers tend to make webs in circle shapes. These spiders have parts called spinnerets located in their rear ends, or abdomens, that produce the silk.

Some orb-weavers might create a trap line with their silk, which attaches them to the middle of the web. When an insect hits the web, the trap line vibrates, and the spider can sense dinner has arrived. It might just be a fly, mosquito, moth or wasp.

As fall gets underway, orb weavers eat lots of insects and get bigger. You might identify an orb weaver from its brick red to orange body with white splotches. We see quite a few orb weavers in Western Washington at this time of year. You might notice more spiders and webs in your neighborhood, too.

We are still learning exactly why some spiders build certain kinds of webs. Murray said a wasp in Costa Rica has even revealed how a spider’s web designs can get hacked. The wasp glues an egg on the spider’s abdomen. When the egg hatches, the little larva attaches to the abdomen and starts living off the spider.

“That grub sits there and steals the nutrients from the spider like a vampire does, or a tick, or other blood-sucking creature,” Murray said. “As that grub grows on the spider, the spider does a really amazing thing.”

On the last night of its life, the spider start building a totally new kind of web that looks a bit like a hammock. Once the hammock is made, the spider puts the larvae into the hammock.

“It really does show you how those web-building abilities are hard-wired in the spiders and that they can be manipulated,” he said.

If you keep asking great questions like scientists do, maybe you’ll help us learn even more about the world of arachnids. In

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1920s complex built to house orphans offers a taste of Spain — in the middle of Marrero | Home/Garden

Some buildings are eye-catching because they’re so grand. Others are eye-catching because they’re unique. Still others stand out simply because they feel somehow out of place.

Reader Brian Gros recently came across one that fits all three of those descriptions.

“Can you tell us about the white Italian villa on Barataria Boulevard in Marrero?,” Gros recently wrote.

Architecturally speaking, it’s Spanish, not Italian — but if you’ve seen the complex about which Gros writes, chances are you remember it.

Covering an estimated 10 acres and including several buildings in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, it looks like the sort of mission complex you’d come across in San Antonio or a Clint Eastwood movie.

It is Hope Haven, founded in 1916 as an industrial cooperative farm by the Rev. Peter Wynhoven to serve as a home, school and source of practical training for orphaned boys who had aged out of the system.



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SUSAN POAG / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Bill Curtis and Craig Guillory of Duff Waterproofing worked their way top to bottom pressure washing the Chapel of St. John Bosco on the Hope Haven campus in Marrero Tuesday, September 13, 2011. The ornate chapel was built in 1941. The pressure washing is part of the ongoing renovation of the buildings on the historic campus, one of which currently houses Cafe Hope, a non-profit restaurant program which trains young adults in both the kitchen and dining room skills.




“The orphan asylums can care for these boys only until they are 12 years of age, and that is too young for them to be thrown on their own resources,” Wynhoven told The Times-Picayune. “It seemed to me that they could be taken away from the evil influences of the city, taught some useful trade, given proper guidance and be self-supporting at the same time.”

Early on, Wynhoven’s “school farm,” as he called it, was simply a dream, but it was one that enjoyed wide community support. Over the years, newspaper reports covered a litany of fundraisers to benefit it, from movies and dances to vaudeville shows. There were at various points a euchre and lotto party, a newsboy parade, an auto race and — a true novelty at the time — an air show, all to will Hope Haven into reality.

Once that seed money was secured, the next order of business was to find a suitable site. Wynhoven found it in a stretch “overgrown wilderness” just a few miles outside the city. With a number of dairy farmers and other craftsmen summoned from Wynhoven’s native Holland to offer their expertise, the project was humming along by 1921. By then, some 250 acres had been cleared for cultivation of crops, as well as for the raising of pigs, sheep and dairy cows. A handful of humble, utilitarian buildings went up to house its young farmers.



hope haven.jpg

Hope Haven in Marrero. 2000 file photo BY SUSAN POAG 




The ultimate dream, though, was to build a proper school on the

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Man In Bathroom Spying Case Faces Charges In Middle Twp.: Police

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP, NJ — A man accused of secretly recording girls at a middle school in Gloucester Township now faces similar charges related to the Cape May Technical School, authorities announced on Thursday.

Gregory Mahley, 51 of West Deptford, is accused of recording multiple people who used a bathroom at the school over the course of just over a year, Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland announced.

Sutherland believes the incidents occurred on Oct. 15, 2013; March 20, 2014; and April 22, 2014. The alleged victims who are now adults, have been identified and were contacted regarding this investigation, according to Sutherland.

Mahley has been charged with 10 counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child (manufacturing of child pornography) and 10 counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child (possession of child pornography).

Detectives from the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and the Middle Township Police Department opened a joint investigation with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office after it was learned that Mahley had set up cameras to record students using the girls bathroom at Glen Landing Middle School in Gloucester Township. Read more here: Man Used Mirror To Spy On Bathroom In Gloucester Township School: PD

Mahley will remain lodged at the Camden County Correctional Center pending court proceedings.
Anyone who may have information related to Mahley or the investigation in Cape May County is asked to contact the Middle Township Police Department at 609-465-8700 or the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit at 609-465-1135.

They may also report it anonymously through the Cape May County Sheriff’s Tip Line at cmcsheriff.net and click on anonymous tip, or through the Cape May County Crime Stoppers, 609-465-2800.

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Chilled-Out Cat Takes a Nap in the Middle of a Japanese Zen Garden

Zen Garden Cat

Japanese zen gardens are designed to help people relax and meditate on the meaning of life. And apparently, the traditional tranquil spaces aren’t only beneficial to humans. Twitter user kmt (@syu9ji2) recently shared photos online, revealing how a cat decided to take a nap, right in the middle of the raked gravel ripples at the Kuhonbutsu Jōshinji Jōdo Buddhist temple garden in Tokyo.

Cats don’t usually need much convincing when it comes to taking a time out, but the zen garden’s peaceful atmosphere may have had some influence on this particular feline. Kmt’s photos show how the ginger tom is completely “at one” with the zen garden. Traditionally, only the garden caretakers are allowed to step foot on the gravel to create the beautiful patterns. However, this cat doesn’t care for the rules, and took it upon himself to stretch out on the sacred ground.

Later, Kmt snapped more photos of the sleepy kitty lounging around the garden, after he had woken up. This furry little guy is clearly a zen master!

Twitter user kmt (@syu9ji2) recently shared photos online, revealing how a cat decided to take a nap, right in the middle of a zen garden in Tokyo.

Zen Garden Cat

This furry little guy is clearly a zen master!

Zen Garden CatZen Garden Catkmt / @syu9ji2: Twitter

All images via kmt / @syu9ji2.

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Man Accused Of Bathroom Spying May Face Charges In Middle Twp: PO

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP, NJ — A man accused of secretly recording girls at a middle school in Gloucester Township may now also face charges in Cape May County, officials announced on Friday.

Gregory Mahley, 51 of West Deptford, was arrested last week after police say he installed a secret mirror in a girls’ bathroom at Glen Landing Middle School.

Mahley was an eight-year employee of Multi-Temp Mechanical, Inc., located in Westville. The company was contracted by the Gloucester Township Board of Education to perform Heating Ventilation-Air Conditioning (HVAC) services at the school, according to police. Read more here: Man Used Mirror To Spy On Bathroom In Gloucester Township School: PD

The company was also contracted to do work in the West Deptford Public School District, police said last week. On Friday, Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland and Middle Township Police Chief Christopher Leusner announced that he also did work in the Cape May County Technical High School, the Middle Township School District, and the administrative office of the Cape May County MUA.

Detectives from the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and the Middle Township Police Department have opened a joint investigation with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office to determine if Mahley has committed any crimes while providing HVAC services in the county, officials said.

No cameras have been found in either of the schools, according to the prosecutor’s office. The investigation continues.

In Gloucester Township, officials said Mahley installed mirrors onto the back of bathroom stall doors that allowed him to secretly record girls using the restroom through an air conditioning vent.

Once the mirrors were discovered, school officials found Mahley inside the utility closet where he recorded the videos, police said. During the investigation, police seized multiple devices from Mahley’s West Deptford home and his work vehicle.

Mahley was charged with seven counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child (manufacturing of child pornography), eight counts of third-degree invasion of privacy, and seven counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child (possession of child pornography).

Anyone who may have information related to Mahley or the investigation in Cape May County is asked to contact the Middle Township Police Department at 609-465-8700 or the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit at 609-465-1135.

They may also report it anonymously through the Cape May County Sheriff’s Tip Line at cmcsheriff.net and click on anonymous tip, or through the Cape May County Crime Stoppers, 609-465-2800.

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Contractor arrested after ‘suspicious’ mirrors found in middle school girl’s bathroom stalls

Police in New Jersey have arrested a contractor after mirrors were installed on the interior doors of stalls in a girl’s bathroom at a middle school, leaving staff “suspicious that someone was peering through an air conditioning vent” above.

Gregory Mahley, 51, of West Deptford, is facing one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child (manufacturing of child pornography), one count of third-degree Invasion of privacy, and one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child (possession of child pornography), according to Gloucester Township Police.

Investigators say they were contacted by officials at Glen Landing Middle School on Tuesday after staff there discovered the mirrors.

Gregory Mahley is facing multiple charges. (Gloucester Township Police)

Gregory Mahley is facing multiple charges. (Gloucester Township Police)

US MARSHALS CAPTURE OKLAHOMA FUGITIVE ACCUSED OF MOLESTING 6-MONTH-OLD  

“Staff became suspicious that someone was peering through an air conditioning vent located overtop of the bathroom stalls,” the department said in a statement, without elaborating.

Police then arrested Mahley, an 8-year employee at Multi-Temp Mechanical Inc., in Westville. The Gloucester Township Board of Education had contracted his company to perform heating, ventilation and air conditioning services at the school, investigators added.

“Gloucester Township Public School District remains committed to providing a healthy and safe learning environment to its’ students and staff at all times,” John Bilodeau, its superintendent, said in a letter to the community following Mahley’s arrest.

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Bilodeau also said he was “very disturbed” to learn of the criminal charges filed against Mahley.

The school had started bringing students back this week.

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HVAC employee arrested after mirrors found in Glen Landing Middle School bathroom: Police

GLOUCESTER TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) — An HVAC employee is facing charges after authorities made a strange discovery inside the girl’s bathroom of a Camden County, New Jersey school this week.

Officials at Glen Landing Middle School say on September 9 they found mirrors installed on the interior doors of the stalls of one of their bathrooms.

Police say school officials became suspicious and suspected someone could be using the mirrors to peer into the stalls from an air conditioning vent above.

According to the Gloucester Township Police Department, Gregory Mahley, 51, of West Deptford, is being charged with endangering the welfare of a child, invasion of privacy, and possession of child pornography.

Mahley was an eight-year employee of Multi-Temp Mechanical, Inc., located in Westville. The company was contracted by the Gloucester Township Board of Education to perform Heating-Ventilation-Air Conditioning services at the school.

It’s still unclear how long the mirrors were installed before they were discovered. No other “suspicious activity” has been found, according to the school.

“I am very disturbed to learn of criminal charges filed today against an employee of an outside contractor who was performing HVAC work at Glen Landing Middle School. Upon notification of suspicious behavior, the school’s administration immediately contacted local law enforcement authorities,” said Superintendent John Bilodeau in a statement.

Police are urging anyone who thinks they may be a victim to contact the Gloucester Township Police Department at 856-228-4500.

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White House, WADA fight over anti-doping funding puts U.S. athletes in middle

“The consequences of a withdrawal of WADA funding by the U.S. could be more severe and far-reaching for American athletes,” Banka told Reuters, which first reported on the development Thursday.

At issue is a June report from the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) that urged Congress to withdraw its funding if WADA fails to take on serious reform measures and give U.S. officials greater representation on its decision-making bodies.

President Trump’s drug policy office contends that the U.S. government is the single largest contributor to WADA, giving $2.7 million annually, and that “American taxpayers should receive a tangible return on their investment in WADA in the form of clean sport, fair play, effective administration of the world anti-doping system and a proportionate voice in WADA decision-making.”

Lawmakers haven’t publicly commented on the ONDCP report, but the funding threat sent shock waves through the international doping community this summer. Dick Pound, the WADA founder and the longest-serving IOC member, called it “inexplicable.” In a statement Friday, Banka said he “will never let clean athletes become hostages of political games.”

“This matter has been raised by some concerned Governments, not by WADA’s leadership, and as is the case with any proposal raised by a stakeholder, WADA has an obligation to consider it carefully,” Banka said. “We will examine the rules to see if they need to be strengthened in light of the current situation. As always, due process will be followed and this will be a matter for discussion and consultation.”

While Banka and WADA have previously rebuked the ONDCP report, this week’s warning was the first time the organization suggested American athletes might be negatively impacted.

“Their priorities are obviously backward,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and an outspoken WADA critic, said in a telephone interview. “They’re threatening U.S. athletes not to compete without legal basis, yet allowing athletes from a Russian state-sponsored doping system to compete — we’re living in a twilight zone.”

“Nobody wants the money to be cut,” he continued, “but throwing good money after bad into WADA’s pocketbook makes no sense until reform is achieved that allows them to be a strong and independent regulator and not the political monster that they’ve become.”

The ONDCP provided a statement, attributed to an unnamed official, pushing back against WADA’s “threats.”

“ONDCP is committed to work with WADA to foster organizational reform that includes increased transparency and greater accountability to the nations like the United States that finance WADA’s operations,” the statement reads. “It’s a goal shared by athletes and athletic organizations around the world, and one that should be shared by WADA. Threats from WADA to exclude athletes from competition who train their entire lives for the privilege of engaging in Olympic sport does not advance these goals, and only reinforces the perception that WADA puts politics over players.”

While many international competitions have been canceled or postponed this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Olympics are scheduled

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