Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Waterfront living, with neighbours on the web

VÄSTERÅS. Summer is here and it’s the time of year when we really enjoy living in a waterfront development.
That is except for one thing, our neighbours.
We only see them in the summer, when they come in great numbers. They invade our balcony, where we want to sit and enjoy the view over the blue waters of Lake Mälaren. They usually come in the evening, when they are on the web for hours.
The spider web, that is.
Because I’m talking about spiders, which I have learned is a big problem in many waterfront developments like the one where we live in Västerås, an hour west of the Swedish capital Stockholm.
When we moved here I had heard that some spiders like new buildings close to the water. Now I know that for a fact.
I also know that we are not the only ones with this problem. When I visited Hamburg in Germany last year to see the giant waterfront development HafenCity I noticed the spider webs as I walked around at night.
I also happened to see a TV-interview on the German channel ZDF that gave some clarity to the issue.
Since HafenCity is the biggest waterfront development in Europe, they probably have the biggest spider problem as well. Therefore a researcher from Hamburg University called Anja Kleinteich had been hired to help find a solution to the problem.
In the ZDF-interview Kleinteich, an expert on spiders, explained that the main problem is the so called bridge spider (larinioides sclopetarius), which prefers to be near water. The bridge spider is also, unfortunately, probably “world champion of reproduction”, according to Kleinteich.
A female bridge spider can produce some 1,500 offsprings in just seven months, which explains a lot.
There is no simple solution to the problem, Kleinteich admits. One recommendation is to use types of lightning that attracts fewer insects. Covering holes where the spiders hide is another, as well as making it difficult for spiders to fasten their webs by having smooth surfaces and rounded “corners” on the building.