Black Widows

widow_cottonwoodcyn-comanchenatlgrasslands-co_lah_6041The black spider crept across the basement floor, venom glistening from its deadly jaws. While the unsuspecting heroine rummaged through some boxes, the spider crept closer, and yet closer, until…

It’s a familiar scenario for a scary movie, but there isn’t much truth to the image of the malevolent black widow stalking its human prey. Yes, these spiders are venomous, and yes, they can bite us and do damage. But Black Widows really need a new image. They’re actually shy and retiring creatures who desperately want nothing to do with us humans.

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To Spray or Not to Spray?

pcoccasional_invaders_clip_image035During a recent visit to a local business, a tiny little beetle was discovered making its way along the baseboard, laboriously climbing over each bump in the carpet. Alarmed, the owner rushed over and glowered at the intruder, commenting that it was the second one she’d seen in as many days. She promised to pick up an insecticidal “bomb” to set off that evening after closing. I rescued the pint-sized ground beetle and carried it outdoors before it got stepped on. I’m sure it was relieved to be deposited in the grass, where it could go back to preying on smaller insects.

With winter approaching, many insects are looking for a place to shelter until spring. They don’t know the difference between a bark crevice and a door frame, and they unwittingly end up in our houses. Most are completely harmless, and can be simply redirected back outside. Instead, we reach for the can of bug spray.

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Yet More Bugs…

Popillia japonica_Japanese Beetle_HudsonGardens-CO_LAH_5585It’s the end of the summer, and what’s a nature photographer to do? Most flowers are languishing in the sultry heat, their leaves brown and crispy as the summer monsoon turns to dry autumn. Gardens look battered from a season of hail storms, insects, and the ravages of sun and wind. The birds have had their families, so the males no longer need to impress the ladies, at least for a while. In many cases, they’ve shed their fancy duds in favor of muted colors that predators won’t notice. This year’s crop of youngsters is also hoping to be overlooked, with tan stripes that blend with the fading grass. Some of the most photogenic birds—tanagers and warblers, for instance, are already wending their way southward.

As I learned on Monday, however, this is a great time of year for bugs.

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Pretty Spiders

Crab Spider on Rosa woodsii_EmeraldValley-COLAH_3780If you’ve read my blog for very long, you might have gathered that I’m not exactly wild about spiders.

Realizing that this is a significant flaw in someone who loves nature and gardening, and who spends a lot of time outdoors, I’ve been attempting to overcome my aversion. I am making an effort to educate myself about arachnids. I photograph spiders wherever I see them. I’ve even held “Rosie,” the Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula at the Butterfly Pavilion in Broomfield (see proof).

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Daddy Longlegs

Daddy Long Legs @CSU LAH 077“Eeek! It’s a spider!”
“No, that’s just a Daddy Longlegs. It won’t hurt you.”
“Are you sure? I heard that they’re really venomous, but that their fangs are too small to bite me. Is that true?”

Everyone knows what a Daddy Longlegs is, or thinks they do. In fact, there are two different groups of animals with the name Daddy Longlegs, both Arachnids, but in different orders. (Scorpions are in yet another order of Arachnid.)

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Cultivating Spiders

spider-plant-home-28mar2006-lah-123rHalloween is just around the corner. Spider decorations are everywhere. I don’t like spiders much (rather, I’m terrified of them), but even arachnophobes like me aren’t afraid of spider plants. There are no chitinous appendages, poison glands, and no skittering noises. Instead, they just grow like crazy and produce lots of offshoots.

It’s easy to see where the name comes from. All those strap-like leaves resemble spider legs (thankfully they aren’t hairy!), and the babies hang from stems in the same way that spiders dangle from silken threads. I wish all spiders could look this cute.

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Grass Spiders

grass-spider_dbg-co_lah_8972I was rinsing my hands under the faucet downstairs when a huge, aggressive monster suddenly scurried across the bowl of the sink. I screamed. Slamming the faucet lever down, I backed away from the counter, shaking, dripping on the tile floor.

Then I snuck forward for another view. Yup, a huge brownish spider, at least two feet inches across (including the legs) was staring up at me with multiple menacing eyes. Shudder.

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