Community, County Ordinances, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Litter vs Artifacts?

If you leave trash sitting around long enough (about 50 years), something mysterious happens and it stops being litter (punishable by a $200 fine) and becomes an archaeological resource which if you remove from federal land could lead to a $500 fine and six moths in jail.

What’s the difference?

Litter is, according to the Lincoln County Ordinance:

“Litter” means any quantity of uncontained or openly stored materials which may be classified as trash, debris, rubbish, refuse, garbage or junk, including but not limited to:
a) any worn out or discarded material that is ready for destruction or has been collected or stored for recycling or salvage;
b) old or scrap metals, wire, rope, batteries, paper, tires, cardboard, plastic, cans, wood, concrete, glass, crockery, or rubber;
c) dead domestic animals;
d) animal and vegetable wastes from the handling, preparation, cooking, and the consumption of food that is not incorporated into a properly maintained compost system;
e) discarded, broken, or unusable furniture, fencing, or building materials,
f) discarded, broken, or non-functioning appliances, campers, mobile homes, junk vehicles, machinery, fixtures, or any component parts thereof, that are serving no apparent purpose, or will not be made to function within a reasonable time;”

Ordinance 2018-02 – Litter Control

It’s probably worth noting that Lincoln County’s litter ordinance doesn’t just apply to roadsides: “It is unlawful for an owner, lessee, or occupant of private property to allow litter to accumulate on his or her property.” As with the community decay ordinance, there appears to be some potential for overlap between “yard art” and “illegal”.

Archaeological resources are broadly defined by federal law, and include trash over 50 years in age (though only if it is of archaeological interest– that is, “capable of providing scientific or humanistic understanding of past human behavior, cultural adaptation, and related topics…”) Archaeological resources are covered by 36 CFR 261.9 (theft of government property, penalty of up to 500$ and/or up to 6 months imprisonment), which means that they are illegal to remove from federal lands.

So, 50+ year old trash? If it’s on federal ground, leaving it is the safer bet. On private property, while explaining it was an artifact rather than litter might make for an interesting argument, that $200 (each day) fine might also prove persuasive.

Litter, to be removed? Or an artifact to remain? Sometimes labels provided clues, allowing the item to be dated, and making the determination easier.

Weird Words

Weird Words: Emoluments

Perhaps we should call this “ask the etymologist”…

Emolument comes to us by way of Latin – specifically, ēmŏlŭmentum literally means “something that is produced from work”. Different forms of the Latin word “emolument” meant striving for success and achieving success, but it also referred to profits, gains, or benefits. “Emolument” can be dissected into a couple of word roots to help us remember the meaning of “emolument”.

“Ex-“ or “E-“ means “out/out of” in both Greek and Latin. Think of organ removal surgeries – an appendectomy is when an appendix is taken out, likewise a hysterectomy is when one’s uterus is removed. Alternatively, some Christians believe in creation “ex nihilo”, God’s creation of the universe “out of nothing”.

“Melere” means “to grind” in Latin. This word root has a fine and storied history, older by far than Latin, going all the way back to Proto-Indo-European. Think of all the words we have that come from this today! Our grinding teeth are called “molars”, certain hammer-related crushing tools are called “mauls”, a “miller” crushes things in a “mill” and the resultant “meal” is what has been crushed.

So, if we mash those two word roots together ex-melere → e-melere emolument would roughly translate as “the outcome of grinding” (money, if you’re the miller).

This word appears prominently in the Foreign Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution. This clause was put in place to limit the amount of governmental corruption, particularly by outside money… A worthy goal, if hard to achieve.

The idea is that we don’t want our officials, either elected or appointed, using their positions to achieve personal gain. Most organizations, whether community, state, or national-level have safeguards to prevent emoluments. One doesn’t want an employee giving preferential treatment to certain people because of secret bargains. It’s also a common word to see in Nepotism laws.

Ask The Entomologist

Ask The Entomologist: What’s this bug in my breakfast?

“This guy and its buddy were both about 5 mm (1/5 inch) long, in my Malt-O-Meal.”

Excellent question, and an attractive little fellow it is.
This furry worm-like beastie is a larder beetle larva, a member of family Dermestidae.

If you’ve ever watched a criminal mystery program on television, you’ve probably seen these insects’ relatives make an appearance with forensic entomologists. Dermestid beetles are often used to clean meat off bones, whether for criminal investigations or by folks who prepare skull mounts. They’re better than chemical treatments, as they leave no markings on the bones themselves, and can be stopped before they destroy the connective tissues holding the creature together.

While entomologists call these things dermestid beetles, there’s a variety of names for them, depending on the species and what they like to eat. Often the bone-cleaning ones are called hide beetles” or “skin beetles The household stored-product pest names you might be familiar with are larder beetles or carpet beetles. As these names imply, there’s quite a bit of variation in what these insects eat.

These insects are survivors. Many species of dermestid beetle occupy some of the worst, least-tasty carcasses out there… These beetles tend to come late to bodies, after most of the good juicy bits have been eaten or have spoiled. I’ve found dermestid larvae between dry ocean fish vertebrae, inside a variety of mammal skulls, as well as in the dried out bodies of little things like mice, songbirds and lizards.

While some species can be helpful at times, most can become pests, especially to taxidermists or fur preparers. It’s an absolute nightmare trying to get dermestid beetles out of museum collections – they’re happy to eat just about anything dry and once living – aged fabrics and hide clothing, pressed plant specimens in herbariums, as well as taxidermied animals (skins as well as hairs or feathers). They don’t discriminate between vertebrates and invertebrates either – dermestid beetles are quite happy to eat pinned insect collections, too.

This three-color band pattern is very common in dermestid beetles.
This particular individual is a true larder beetle, found in my sack of short-grain sticky rice.

Some dermestids have found that sacks of grain are to their liking as well. Here’s a stowaway I found in one of my sacks of rice recently – a diet much more similar to that of your malt-o-meal beetle. It stands to reason, of course – they’re the same species, Dermestes lardarius.

Should you have problems with these in your own home, both Colorado State University and The Ohio State University have made nice informational sheets on how to control larder beetles and other dermestids.
CSU’s dermestid info & control sheet & OSU’s dermestid info & control sheet.
If they should get into your emergency food cache, though, don’t worry. They’re good eating.

And a closeup – this adult larder beetle is just a little bit bigger than the larva in the ID request photo.
Just over 1/4th inch, as opposed to 1/5th of an inch.

Ask The Entomologist

Ask the Entomologist: Ladybugs – which types bite?

First off, this is an excellent question.
All ladybeetles have jaws and the ability to bite, but some certainly seem to do so more often.

I’m fond of this question for more than that, though.
I got my start in entomology as a highschooler in South Dakota. Dr. Louis Hesler, a USDA lab scientist who specialized on ladybeetles took me under his wing, and helped me learn to identify them. I specialized in dissecting and identifying tiny ladybeetle species, often less than 1/10th of an inch long. That was the first time in my life that I felt I was doing work that couldn’t be easily replaced, and it was an addictive feeling.

If you have ladybeetles in your home, and have been bitten by them, I’d expect them to be Multicolored Asian Ladybeetles. Other ladybeetles are quite capable of biting, too, even if they don’t do so terribly often.
It’s more a question of what kind of ladybeetles we regularly encounter in our homes.

This past autumn I saw just over a dozen species of ladybeetles around our place… and I wasn’t searching for them. For comparison, South Dakota is currently known to have 80 species of ladybeetles. Chances are good that Montana has a similar or higher number. Despite all the ladybeetle species we had outdoors this summer, the only species I’ve seen in our home this winter is the Multicolored Asian Ladybeetle.

Why are these beetles in our homes? To avoid the cold weather.
While most ladybeetles need to avoid freezing to survive winter, not all do so in the same way.

European ladybeetles, such as the Seven-Spotted Ladybird Beetle (now common in North America as well) often overwinter in leaf litter. New World ladybeetles, such as the Convergent Ladybeetle, tend to overwinter inside rotting trees, much like Cluster Flies further from human structures do. Smaller ladybeetles are known to overwinter inside ant burrows, feeding on their larvae through the winter.

The Multicolored Asian Ladybeetle, has a different history, though. This species has lived alongside soybean farming for ages – the soybean was domesticated in the 11th Century BC. The Asian Ladybeetle’s ancestors overwintered in barns after the soybean harvests, and its descendants seek out shelter in human-made structures as well… It is this behavior that brings them into conflict with humans more than other species of ladybeetle.

Not all entomologists think that Asian Ladybeetles are likely to bite.
This write-up found that only about 1/4 of Asian Ladybeetles bit the author when given the opportunity… When not removed from his hands after they began biting, the Asian Ladybeetles happily feed on him for about a half hour. I suspect few people besides entomologists have personally experienced this phenomenon, however. One can see how similar behavior on fruits can quickly make these into pests.

How can I prevent the Asian Ladybeetles from invading my home in the winter?
Well, I can tell you what doesn’t work, and what ostensibly should work.

Putting up “Ladybug Houses” will not work at all. These beetles aren’t stupid – they can tell it’s warmer in your home than in the ladybug house, so your home will be their clear preference for winter quarters.

It’s theoretically possible to caulk your house so well that insects won’t be able to get inside. In practice, I don’t think this is viable at all. Good luck getting all those 1/16th inch cracks closed! There will always be a few tiny gaps that you miss, and the insects will invite themselves in to the warmth.

If you feel the need to remove your ladybeetle infestation, I’d suggest vacuuming. With a good suction attachment, you’ll be able to remove the Asian Ladybeetles without smushing them and making stains. I’d suggest emptying the vacuum bag promptly, or they’ll crawl out and continue on their merry way. Purdue Extension advocates using socks when vacuuming bugs.

Vacuuming them up can also be a wise idea if you’ve got a dog who likes to eat ladybeetles. Consuming sufficiently large quantities of ladybeetles, regardless of the species, can make your pets sick. But, as Paracelsus said, “The dose makes the poison”. It takes a special dog to eat one ladybeetle and decide to follow it up with fifteen more. I suspect your beasties may be a bit more discerning.

An excerpt from my mentor’s poster of the Ladybeetles of South Dakota.
I’ve observed many of these species here in Montana as well.


Stimulus payments, not junk mail!

Covid19 stimulus payments have begun to trickle into North Lincoln County again, and as the current PSE/Postmaster of Fortine, I feel it’s quite important to spread this information around. You see, some of these stimulus payments aren’t as official-looking as they could be.

The above piece of suspicious-looking mail is actually a stimulus payment from the federal government, not junk mail. Covid stimulus payments were first issued as prepaid debit cards this past May. There wasn’t much coverage of the different payment method, and as a result, is it any wonder that folks all over the country accidentally threw them away?

A couple of stimulus payments later, the same thing is happening again. Folks all across the nation have begun to accidentally throw their EIP (“Economic Impact Payment”) cards away. .

If you received your previous stimulus payments as direct deposits, you should have received this one as a direct deposit as well. However, receiving an actual stimulus check last time does not guarantee that you’ll get a check this time.

An example of what our EIC Card envelope looked like.
(I’ve obscured the address, but it was right beneath the barcode.)

The above envelope contains a prepaid debit card, though how much money that card contains may vary depending on whether or not it is a joint card for you and your spouse, etc. You’ll want to activate your card promptly and check its value on the official EIP Card website. Nowhere on the EIP Cards, or in their enclosed letters is their value stated! Your EIP card can be used similarly to a normal debit card, but it’s worth noting that there are extra fees associated with using it.0

Fees associated with the EIP Card:
I’m not terribly fond of these cards – there’s a number of ways your balance gets whittled down.
Doesn’t it feel like death by a thousand cuts? The fees are as follows:

ATM withdrawals – Domestic——$2.00 fee,
This applies to all out-of-network ATMS, but is waived for your 1st withdrawal.
There are no-fee ATMs, though few and far between.
Our only one in the North Lincoln County area is at Stein’s Market in Eureka.
Your next closest options are Libby and Whitefish.
ATM balance inquiry—————-$0.25 fee
This fee applies at all ATMs – both in-network and out-of-network.
Instead of wasting those 25 cents, check your balance online for free.
You can also check your balance by calling Customer Service: 1.800.240.8100.
Bank/cashier withdrawal————$5.00 fee
Like the out-of-network ATM withdrawals, this fee is waived for your first cash withdrawal, but will apply to all others.

What if your card was thrown away, lost, or stolen?
Call the EIP Customer Service helpline at 1.800.240.8100.
If you manage to get through to them, (and then jump through the relevant hoops to deactivate the damaged or missing one), they’ll send you a replacement card at no extra charge.

If you can’t get through to the IRS via their phone number (their line has been rather busy lately), consider downloading IRS Form 3911, filling it out, and submitting it via the IRS website.

Here’s the IRS page on how to request a trace of your EIP (card or check). It also contains information on how to properly submit form 3911.


Chickarees, our local Pine Squirrels

Two weeks past, Sandi Elster asked if I knew anything about our red squirrels. While I’ve spent some time with Pine Squirrels in other places, I’ve not had a chance to observe for an extended period of time here yet – the presence of dogs interferes with that. However, I have met them once or twice since moving to Trego, despite our little predator’s best efforts.

In this neck of the woods, an American Red Squirrel is often called a “Chickaree” or a “Chicory”. My personal preference is for “Chickaree”, as the other spelling can also refer to a plant related to the dandelion – it makes a decent tea, and a rather sad coffee substitute, but isn’t the squirrel we seek.

The pine squirrel most common on our place is the American Red Squirrel, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus. These are considerably smaller than the Fox Squirrels I grew up calling “red squirrels” in South Dakota. Additionally, the American Red Squirrel tends to prefer far more forested areas. Fox and Gray Squirrels (both in genus Sciurus) tend to do well for themselves in town, but Tamiasciurus pine squirrels seem to do better on the outskirts or away from towns.

A summer picture of an American Red Squirrel from several years ago -it’s not often they pose so well.

Pine Squirrels defend territories throughout the winter months, and when sufficiently established, they leave behind territory to their children, and children’s children.

These territories focus on things called “middens“. These are basically large piles where squirrels have been processing pine nuts for generations. If a female is well-off enough, she may defend several middens, and may give control of some of them to her offspring, to help them get through the winter. If an American Red Squirrel doesn’t have a midden of its own by its first winter, it is unlikely to survive, so inheritances can be very important.

Though it may come as a surprise to some, all squirrels seem to enjoy eating meat on occasion. They often visit carrion, both to feed on the flesh, as well as to gnaw on the bone (a habit more common in females – having kids makes calcium intake awfully important). While occasional and opportunistic, many squirrels hunt as well. As is the case in our voles, these small mammals agree that there are few better ways of convincing your annoying neighbors to move on than by devouring their little ones.

John Muir had great regard for the Pine Squirrel, particularly the Douglas Squirrel, the western relative of our American Red Squirrel.

Community, Wildlife

Winter changes voles’ moods, too.

As the seasons wear on, and we begin another year with our movements restricted by Covid19, it’s easy to see cabin fever creeping up on folks. People who wouldn’t ordinarily have conflict, begin to. Those who started out with strife and high tempers can’t be said to have improved. This plight turns my mind to the voles, and how much better they handle winter than us humans.

Voles are kin of mice – not true mice, biologists will tell you, as they’re more closely related to muskrats and lemmings, but functionally they behave much like true mice. Voles can be distinguished from mice by having shorter & blunter snouts, smaller eyes and ears, shorter tails, and classically bad teeth. To me their teeth bring British films to mind – Monty Python & The Holy Grail, for example.

This handsome gentleman made the mistake of trying to fight the little Pomeranian mouser.
He reared up on his hind legs, squeaking menacingly… and the other Pomeranian grabbed him from behind.

Voles, genus Microtus, are territorial little beasties. While primarily herbivorous, voles do appreciate a varied diet, and some are fierce grasshopper hunters. Like many small mammals, voles seem to believe that one should encourage annoying neighbors to live elsewhere by devouring their children (I’m rather glad most humans don’t espouse this belief). Sensible little creatures, voles will readily dine on carrion, and aren’t opposed to eating dead (or mostly dead) kin caught in traps.

Largely solitary-living, voles are ready to fight and kill in defense of their sovereignty in summer. This is particularly true for actively reproductive females, who tolerate no other reproductive female trespassers.

However, vole behaviors change with the seasons. Unlike you or I, voles become more sociable and tolerant of others during the cold of winter. Instead of eviscerating that annoying cousin, as their first inclination would be in the summer, when wearing winter’s brain, voles instead perceive that nuisance relatives could be of utility and might generate enough warmth to be worth keeping around.

Voles realize that they’ll only get through the cold harshness of winter together. You see, voles don’t make burrows deep enough to avoid the frost, and thus need the warmth of others to survive. And so they build wintertime nests of dry grass, and pile within those nests, keeping warm by shared bodyheat.

The importance of food:
But one can not survive on warmth alone – voles need to eat throughout the winter months as well.

To do this, they build tunnels leading away from their dry grass nests, and feed on plantstuffs wherever they can. This is the main reason why voles become pests in winter months. For such small animals, they can be quite destructive – they’re quite capable of girdling trees, if it’s what it takes for them to get food.

While this allows foraging, voles only forage a few at a time – always leaving a number of voles behind, sleeping in the nest to keep it warm. Once those voles that are foraging have returned, it will be others’ time to seek food.

Here’s a vole foraging runway, partly uncovered by melting snow. These paths are about 1.5 inches wide. Note that the tunnel branches like a “Y” at the top of the image.

Vole control:
The best means of controlling voles is by predators. Garter snakes will contribute, as will hawks, but for our geographic area, our various weasels are likely the best means of controlling voles. In the absence of good weasels, a cat or dog with aspirations of becoming a good mouser will be helpful as well – and oh, the joy if they happen to find the winter nest full of scrumptious voles.

In the absence of total control by predators, ringing the bases of trees you want to protect (either with wire hardware cloth or with protective plastic sheathing) is a wise idea. Regardless of what you pick to protect your plants, be sure to bury it 4-6 inches deep, so that voles will be less likely to tunnel beneath it. Reducing groundcover around plants you want to protect is a good idea as well – the voles won’t place their foraging tunnels across much bare ground.

If you’d like to take a more active approach, the thaw has been sufficient for me to find vole trails with little difficulty. Follow the trails long enough and you’ll discover their winter nests, little edifices of dry grass, about 8 inches across. Find one of the nests and you may well make a little dog’s day.


Hungarian Lentil Stew for a prosperous New Year

Once, when I was a small child, growing up in eastern South Dakota, my father took my siblings and me to see reindeer in the parking lot of a Lewis Drug. One of the better customer-drawing gimmicks I had seen, at that point. While there, my father overheard a tall, dark-bearded fellow conversing with his two children in a strange tongue.

Now, my father is very fond of languages, and enjoys learning more whenever the opportunity presents itself. I’ve early memories of him carrying one of his foreign-language Bibles to Church on Sunday, reading along with the sermon, albeit in a different tongue. The Estonian Bible was his most frequent church companion, I think.

Anyway, the language this tall, dark-bearded father was speaking was as foreign to my own father as it was to me. So my father waited for a break in the conversation, and then went over, and asked that fine-bearded fellow what language he was speaking – might it be Hungarian? It wasn’t a language he was familiar with, but it had its similarities to Finnish and Estonian.

As it turned out, Dad had guessed the language correctly – helped, no doubt, by his fondness for Finno-Ugric tongues – borne out of his Finnish heritage. While Dad shared his love of languages with me, and I’ve extensively pursued Latin and Greek, I’ve yet to spend much time on the tongues of my northern forbears.

We ended up becoming close friends with that family of Hungarians, and were both guests and hosts many times over the next few years, sharing many meals. Friendships we’d never have had without Dad being inquisitive about language, and eager to have new, chance acquaintances over for coffee. And, of course, the help of a couple of reindeer.

Here’s a traditional Hungarian recipe from the mother of that family.
Something to eat on New Year’s Eve to bring fortune to you and yours throughout the next year.

Lentil Stew:
3 cups Lentils (for prosperity – see how the lentils look like little coins?)
2 Tbsp Yellow Mustard
Paprika powder
1 medium Red Onion, quartered.
1 small lemon, halved.
5 bay leaves
Garlic (either a generous sprinkling of powder or about 2 chopped cloves)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste.
A little smoked meat (if memory serves, smoked turkey was used the first time I had this, though lean pork is most traditional, especially cold smoked shortrib – Pork is supposed to bring good luck)

Cook this assemblage in water until lentils are done – I like it to have the consistency of a porridge.
Remove the onion, bay leaves, and lemon before serving with the following sauce.

Paprika Sauce:
Place 1-2 Tbsp flour in 2-3 Tbsp of hot oil, whisking until homogeneous.
Add red paprika powder generously, letting it bloom in the hot oil.
Mix with 1/2 cup sour cream and some milk, until desired consistency is reached.
The sauce should be smooth and a bright orange in color.

I suspect that this was how the mother of our Hungarian friends substituted for Hungarian Paprika Paste, being unable to get it in the American Midwest. She later brought us some Univer Red Gold paste as a gift, after a visit back to Hungary. What a treasure that was!

The completed Lentil Stew with Paprika Sauce!
May your New Year be filled with flavor.

Ask The Entomologist

Thoughts on Invertebrate Houseguests

Just last night, my wife asked me to identify a spider that was perched on the wall of our shower. A small thing, its body was only about 3 millimeters long, or about 1/10 an inch. It was an immature spider, and I didn’t manage to get a good look at the layout of its eyes, so I was unable to identify it as well as I’d like. (Many identification resources tend to be more helpful for identifying adult bugs than immature bugs).

While I myself couldn’t identify it to genus level, I shared the observation to iNaturalist, in hopes that somebody with more expertise in spiders would be able to get a closer identification. Regardless of what it is, the chances of its bite and venom being of medical importance are just about nill. The only spider of real medical importance we have here in Montana is the Western Black Widow.

From just in front of the eyes to the tip of the abdomen, about 3 mm.
Sadly, I could only make out the two central eyes, and I’d need to see the others to identify her.

Insects and their kin have been living alongside humans for a very long time – it’s thought that some of our current house-dwelling insects started out as cave dwellers, also living alongside our human forbears. Some early cave art even features cave crickets, as in the Cave of the Three Brothers in southwestern France.

An ongoing project on iNaturalist, “Never Home Alone”, attempts to learn more about our long-term arthropod houseguests. Thus far, this project has led to the discovery of a number of new species – organisms whose behavior “in the wild” is entirely unknown. They’ve only ever been observed and collected from human dwellings.

The scientific paper that this project arose from found that upwards of 100 species of insects could be found in just about every home they surveyed. Defying the stereotype, folks with larger homes in better parts of town had more species of insects, not fewer! Regardless of homeowner’s income, the vast majority of the insect houseguests discovered were non-pest species, and some hadn’t been observed in the region before.

If an entomologist finds that your home is full of bugs, you shouldn’t feel too bad – chances are good that your neighbors’ homes have similar numbers of insects. They’re mostly harmless, and some are even beneficial…. Case in point, at closing time, the spider from the shower had been identified as a harmless variety of cellar spider, Pholcophora americana, who had likely been feeding on moth flies from our drains.

At present, the cellar spider has been relocated to the holly to join our Christmas Spiders.

Myths & Folklore

The Christmas Spider, an Eastern European Legend

Many cultures have their own unique Christmas ornaments… When I was little, my folks had a straw goat ornament from Finland, a “Joulupukki“, or “Yule Goat”, a representation of the harvest season’s spirit – something that made an appearance when folks celebrated the return of the light. They also had a clay Christmas Pig ornament from Germany as well – representing the feast that poorer folks would make, slaughtering their one pig for the midwinter festivities.

Yule Goat

Both goats and pigs feature in winter solstice holiday traditions all the way back to pagan times. However, the Christmas Spider, a decoration and legend more common in Eastern Europe, has a relatively recent origin.

Christmas Pig

There are a number of tales explaining why spiders deserve a place on our Christmas trees, but here are two of my favorites.

As we’ve all heard tell, Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, perhaps in a cave. Shortly thereafter, Mary & Joseph fled to Africa with the Christchild, to escape the soldiers of King Herod. In their flight, it is rumored that they hid in caves to avoid the pursuing soldiers. In one case, the soldiers are said to have been close on their heels… and the holy family was saved by spiders, who swiftly covered the entrance of their cave with webs. When the soldier sent to scout their cave saw the webs, he decided that nothing had been in that particular cave recently, there was no need to waste time checking it. In recognition of those ancient Israeli spiders’ good deed, some people place spider ornaments on their Christmas trees… and the tale has even made its way to the pages of a children’s book.

Sometime thereafter, in the not-so-distant past, somewhere in the Ukraine, a family was preparing for the winter holidays. They cleaned the house in preparation for decorating it. Of course, being thoughtful people (and not wanting bad luck) they made sure to not harm spiders when they removed their webs. Once that was taken care of, they put their decorations up, and took a well-deserved rest.

Once all the humans had all gone to sleep, the spiders scurried out from their hiding places. Or perhaps, just perhaps, the spider egg sacs brought in on the tree hatched in the warm house. Regardless of how the spiders got there, they began to investigate the tree.

The spiders marveled at its decorations – so different from the trees outside! In an attempt to contribute, the spiders coated it in their webs… Unfortunately, many humans don’t think spiderwebs make good decorations. Later on in the night “Дід Мороз” – Father Frost appeared (or Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, or the Christ Child… there are many variant tales). Regardless of who the holiday wonderworker was, he saw what the spiders had done, and turned all their webs into skeins of silver and gold! And thus the very first tinsel was created. Born of spiders’ desire to contribute to the winter celebration.

Here are some instructions if you’d like to make a Christmas Spider of beads and wire for your own family’s tree, after the Ukrainian tradition. As for me, my Christmas spiders, my pavuchky” – little spiders, are origami, folded from bright foil, and hidden among the branches.

One of this year’s origami Christmas Spiders.