Sunday, October 28, 2018

HumBug: Halloween Romance

Posted By on Sun, Oct 28, 2018 at 11:18 AM

Closeup of male cross orb weaver. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Closeup of male cross orb weaver.
You see them nearly everywhere this time of year, the big female cross orb weaver spiders (Araneus diadematus). If you get close you can see the emblem of the cross for which they're known.
Female cross orb weaver showing distinctive cross pattern on her back. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Female cross orb weaver showing distinctive cross pattern on her back.
As I looked at one particularly large female spider, I noticed another spider with a leg span nearly as large as the lady but a much smaller body was plucking a couple of her web's support cables.
Male approaches female spider. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Male approaches female spider.
With some apparent trepidation, he made his advance going a little way out on her web. For her part she scurried right after him and he ran away. He tried this several times always with the same result. She chased, he ran.
He finally gave up and, sliding down a strand of webbing like a man rappelling, he disappeared behind a leaf. I moved trying to get a better vantage to get a shot of his back to see if he, too, sported the distinctive cross seen so plainly on the females.

What I hadn't realized was that he was already on the job with another lady whose web was positioned almost directly the below the first.
Female shows her fangs. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Female shows her fangs.
He plucked at her web from the side as he had done before, but this lady's response was completely different. She retreated from the silk wrapped sink bug on which she'd been feeding and took up a position facing him at the center of her web, motionless. With the same trepidation he'd shown before, he approached but this female did not pursue him. Instead she just hung there, moving little until he got close enough to touch her front legs with his. Then she moved a little and he retreated. This happened over and over again, me snapping photos each time. It looked like she was baring her fangs when he got really close but it was hard to tell at that range.
The male swoops in to seal the deal. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • The male swoops in to seal the deal.
Finally he touched her, which she allowed, and then suddenly they were one big tangle of legs. As I snapped away, I suddenly realized she was wrapping him in silk. She revolved his now immobilized body like a chicken on a spit.
The male attempts to get away. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • The male attempts to get away.
When she was satisfied that he was completely immobilized she left his swathed form dangling in her web and she returned to her stink bug.
The female starts to wrap male spider. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • The female starts to wrap male spider.
That's a wrap for the male. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • That's a wrap for the male.
I returned several days later. The stink bug long gone but, like a horrific trophy, the webbed, tangled mass of male spider legs hung there. Or maybe this was another male lured to his doom.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, October 21, 2018

HumBug: Spiders in the House

Posted By on Sun, Oct 21, 2018 at 11:33 AM

Common house spider next to my front porch light. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Common house spider next to my front porch light.

The month of October, ending in Halloween, is the perfect time to check out our local spider fauna. Many of the largest and showiest species are at their finest at this time of year.

With that in mind, I've seen quite a few lately. At my house, at least, the common house spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) indeed lives up to its name. They are disturbingly common, especially around my outside lights, preying on all manner of phototropic insects.


Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, October 14, 2018

HumBug: Creepy, Cute and Unusual

Posted By on Sun, Oct 14, 2018 at 3:00 PM

The business end of the centipede, believed to be Scolopocryptops gracilis, no common name. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • The business end of the centipede, believed to be Scolopocryptops gracilis, no common name.

Looking closely at more crawling critters than most folks, you'd think I'd get used to them. But there is one critter that still holds a Class 4 creep factor for me: the common centipede. If you could cross a spider and a snake, centipedes would be the result. Flexible, fast and venomous — in their world they are a force to be reckoned with.
At about 4 inches long this centipede was just too long for my macro lens. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • At about 4 inches long this centipede was just too long for my macro lens.
The most common and largest I've encountered hereabouts seem to be members of the bark centipede family, Scolopendromorpha. Found under logs, they are brick red, some specimens measure nearly 4 inches long. The "fangs" on the underside of their head, technically called forcipules, are actually highly modified legs complete with venom glands. No known centipede is considered lethal to a healthy adult human and I've never encountered anyone that's been bitten.
While “centipede” translates to “hundred foot,” since adults have an odd number of body segments, and only two feet per segment, it is impossible for any species to have exactly 100 feet.
Mylitta crescent butterfly on Queen Anne's lace. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Mylitta crescent butterfly on Queen Anne's lace.
At the other end of the cuteness scale are the little Mylitta crescent butterflies. I've been seeing a great many of these little guys out and about nectaring on Queen Anne's lace and vigorously defending their territories. This species can have multiple generations in a year and their larvae feed on thistles, altogether a good thing.
Variegated meadowhawk basks in the sun. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Variegated meadowhawk basks in the sun.
Once again the migratory dragonfly, variegated meadowhawk, is gracing our county. I have photographs every winter of this particular species going back to 2010, when I first noticed one on a cold sunny winter day. Surviving frosty nights and temperatures which put windowpane ice on puddles is unusual for what is considered a warm season order of insects.

Variegated meadowhawk photo for positive ID. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Variegated meadowhawk photo for positive ID.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, October 7, 2018

HumBug: The Girls of Autumn

Posted By on Sun, Oct 7, 2018 at 5:28 PM

Closeuo of Sierra dome spider (Neriene litigosa). - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Closeuo of Sierra dome spider (Neriene litigosa).
If spring is the season of butterflies, autumn must be the season of spiders. A short walk across some brushy terrain yielded several dozen spiders of at least half a dozen species. Among spiders, females are often much larger and more conspicuous than the males and, for ones with an annual cycle, this is when they get their biggest, preparing to lay eggs either now to over winter, or protected in their dormant bodies until spring.
Ant tries to steal funnel web spider's prey. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Ant tries to steal funnel web spider's prey.
Funnel webs were everywhere, each one with a spider with a leg span a bit larger than a quarter standing near the entrance to its lair. This family, Agelenidae, is not related to the dangerous Australian spider of the same name. Last night's rain dotted their webs like glitter.
Cross orb weaver female, Araneus diadematus, retreated to thistle where she was well camouflaged. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Cross orb weaver female, Araneus diadematus, retreated to thistle where she was well camouflaged.
The large cross orb weavers spin their neat vertical webs near the edges of the forest where open meadow gives way to brush. The large females hang in the center of their webs waiting for food to deliver itself and a prospective mate to come calling.
Dome web spiders (family Linyphiidae) hang upside down in their characteristic bell shaped webs.
A wolf spider paused just long enough to get a shot. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A wolf spider paused just long enough to get a shot.
Literally hundreds wolf spiders (family Lycosidae) raced through the grass ahead of me as I walked. Agile running hunters, about the only webs these spiders spin is an egg sack holding the next generation to the mother's abdomen. For a few days after they hatch they will cling to their mom's back, getting a free ride.
Johnson's jumping spider Phidippus johnsoni. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Johnson's jumping spider Phidippus johnsoni.
There is much to like about the little jumping spiders (family Salticideae). Agile runners and jumpers some of their movements are so quick it looks like they've mastered short-range teleportation.
Goldenrod crab spider Misumena vatia, missing one front leg menaces the camera. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Goldenrod crab spider Misumena vatia, missing one front leg menaces the camera.
Lurking on or near flowers you can find crab spiders (family Thomisidae). This family doesn't spin a snare either, but is an ambush predator.

Although sometimes they give me the willies, spiders are one of mankind's greatest allies, estimated to killing and devouring between 500 and 800 million tons of insects annually.

I recently ordered yet another insect identification guide, Pacific Northwest Insects by Merill A. Peterson. Although it is billed as a field guide, this 2-pound 6-by-9-inch book will not fit in my back pocket. It couldn't, as it is the most complete guide to the insects of our area all the way up to British Columbia. Abundantly illustrated with 1,725 good identification photos, it has already helped me verify half a dozen IDs including some mentioned here. I can heartily recommend this book.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: ,

Recent Comments

Top Tags in
Life + Outdoors

glow worms


centipedes


dragonflies


Evolution


birds


Top Commenters

socialize

Facebook | Twitter

© 2020 North Coast Journal

Website powered by Foundation