A Date with Eight

Now this is what I call cutting in close.  The last day of the month and I officially have one post to go.  If you recall from the last post there wasn’t much concern about hitting the monthly quota being it dog show weekend with plenty of down time to crank the required two out.  When Sunday came I figured it would be easier to just post one from home rather than drag the hotspot and computer out again.  In hindsight that was probably not the best decision of the day .. although I can DEFINITELY say that was not the WORST decision of the day.  There was also a long run on the agenda but still left plenty of time for a post … well, there was suppose to be enough time but there was an “incident” after the run that preempted any further activities that night.  The details might come out in a future post, but for now let’s just say that this kid was able to meet a number of under appreciated individuals in the emergency medical arena.

Which brings us to today scrambling to get a post out to end the month.  Based on a quick review of the upcoming blog topics it was clear that you are about to get hit with a crap load of birds from our many birding shoots we’ve been on over the past year or so.  As a relief from that barrage, figured it would be a good time to get a new set of our eight legged friends out.  The pictures have been processed for awhile now, but often creeps me out enough to opt for another topic.  As punishment for what may have been a bad decision yesterday, we bring you these:

A few of my friends are deathly afraid of spiders so a warning was probably in order.  The odd thing is they have no problem with clowns which is clearly something fundamentally wrong with their mental state.  I’ll lay down with tarantulas before letting a clown get within 50 feet of me.  This particular set of arachnids came from a day out with the Macro glass.  If you want to get out and be personal with the miniature wildlife, there is nothing better than heading out in the woods with a camera and tight focus glass.  Warning, you might not be comfortable with what you find!

When out exploring the wild the focus is on capturing unique inhabitants without impacting the subjects day to day life.  That philosophy cost me a front shot of this particular spider since the only way to do that would be to jeopardize the webbing.  It was also feeding and didn’t want it to lose a meal (granted, this might have been frowned upon by the victim).  From a coolness perspective, this spidey is near the tops.  Not only does it have a stunning color palette, but has unique features like the horns and the web funnel.  Based on some quick searches of the web, it was decided that this specimen is a Micrathena Sagittata or more commonly referred to as an Arrowshaped Micrathena.  According to Spiders.US (link here) this is a mature female.  They have eight eyes and each of the legs end with three claws.  If you didn’t already figure it out, Sagittata is Latin for Arrowed which accurately describes the shape of the body (Micrathena is for the Greek small Athena – who wore armor) .  True to where this spider was found it builds the web close to the ground (less than two feet off the ground – clearly effective based on the creature it was chomping on.  They have about a year lifespan and the site indicated they die at the first hard frost.

Hit the jump to read about some other spiders that were captured that day

Next up on the spider shots is this black beauty.  It was spotted later in the evening on our porch.  This one was a little harder to identify since there really is not a lot of features to go on.  It is black – a fairly common color for spiders as a whole – and nothing to unusual other than the whitish spot on the back of the abdomen.  The closest match on the Spider US site was the Phidippus Audax or more commonly referred to the Bold Jumping Spider – holy crap – this spider jumps!! clearly this was not known when sticking my face down close to it when getting the shot – shudder.

Once again they have 8 eyes but unlike the Arrow, they only have two claws on the end of each leg.  They are not web spinners preferring to jump on their prey or use a trailing line to catch their prey.  They have excellent near vision which they use to judge their jumping distances.  For those not fond of the eight-leggeds, you might not appreciate the fact they lay 50 to 200 eggs at a time.  Stomping the hell out of that one you might encounter will likely only piss off its 200 children.

Lastly we bring you an interesting find from the excursion.  Interesting mainly due to the fact I am not sure what it really is.  The underside is fairly bland but if you look close at the back end you will notice the start of horn features similar to the Arrow at the beginning.  It also sports a similar web funnel, but the coloring and ab shape is completely different.

Apparently there are 4,000 species of spider species in North America and Canada which from my own personal perspective is entirely tooooo many.  I can imagine at some point there will be a cross species of spider babies that will mutate into a human killing apocalypse which will end civilization as we know it today.  Crossing the venom of say a Recluse or Black Widow with the jumping ability of the Bold Jumper would be a sufficiently bad start for us and clueless Macro photographers.  I can imagine tons of 911 calls resulting from seeing individuals curled up in a silk ball with broken cameras at their sides.

I tried both the browse by location and the browse by color on the Spider site without finding a perfect match.  It did help that I was able to get on the front side of the spider without causing any harm (unlike the Arrow, this one built the web about eye level  allowing me to duck under it to get to the other side).  There it was found to have a very distinctive white pattern that you would think could be easily matched with an identification site – answer is .. nope.  Even Google images could not pull back a close enough match that provided any confidence on the ID.  A couple of more times through the Spider site options did produce something close – Gasteracantha or more common Spiny Backed Orb Weaver.

My only guess is this is either a male or a juvenile that hasn’t developed the full skeletal plate and horns.  If you happen to have a better match, please let me know in the comments since I can easily be convinced of something other.  The Spider site indicated there were 29 species in their db for Illinois but this particular one didn’t come back from the search even though it indicated that it could be found in Illinois.  Our friends over at Wikipedia let me down since they had very little at all about this spider.  As a result I went to Bugguide.net (link here).  For the record, if that site doesn’t make your skin crawl there is something wrong with you or worse you are a clown).  After going through their excellent species navigation I stumbled on the White Micrathena.  This looks like a MUCH better match.  The Google search came back with Spined Micrathena so that must be the more common name.  Females are the only web builders so if this is correct the guess of juvenile may be accurate.

Very little else could be found about this spider other than the very comforting fact that their bites are harmless to humans – thank god!  Again, if you have better info on what this is feel free to let me know.  Can’t wait until next time I’m out on a date with these interesting eight legged (and eight eyed in some cases) creatures.  Till then I’m stuck in bed drinking lots and lots of ice water.

That’s a wrap for June – see ya next month!

2 thoughts on “A Date with Eight”

  1. ummm definitely did not put lead in myself and the ticker was tested fine so from that perspective.. nope. ….but definitely over extended myself on a run and clearly payed for it.

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