Arachnids


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under leaf out of sun
orbweaver
turned on its horizon

Araneus niveus (no common name)
on ruby spice summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

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Daily, on the perimeter of nearby homes, exquisite female figures of spined micrathena
spin their silken geometry for prey–

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everywhere inviting closer inspection and
further exploration for their stunning suspension in the creekside air.

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Here a Paraphidippus aurantius, traversing a fence from post to post,
appears a bit flummoxed to meet me leaning upon the rail.

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Mutually improvising our turns and impressions, I was finally pleased
to observe the jumping spider continue undeterred along its way.

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September sun rising on the web,

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a nearby male sets in shade,

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and silk spun round a Rose of Sharon leaf

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folds a female home.

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This daddy-long-legs seems forever engaged with an obstinant leafhopper.

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But another easily handles smaller prey, content to let me watch awhile

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before up & scuttling away.

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Though sharing a moniker with cellar spiders (also called “daddy-long-legs”), these arachnids are not spiders but harvestmen.  They are one of the several Leiobunum species, quite possibly Leiobunum vittatum, also known as the eastern harvestman, one of our commonly elegant residents here by Little Crum Creek.

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For an impressive glimpse of several kinds of harvestmen, consider checking out Daniel Proud’s informative series of posts on them.

Back at the start of March, my buddy Tony found a string of egg sacs in his bushes and generously offered them to me for suspense & safekeeping.

As I learned last fall with some black soldier fly larvae, these things are best put aside in a jar and forgotten awhile.

Then, sure enough, in the middle of May, a jarful of tiny spiderlings hatched and went straight to work suspending themselves in captivity.

Anxious for their healthy adjustment, I showed off the newborn basilica orbweaver spiders for only a short time, then set them and the emptying egg sacs down upon an azalea.

Within half an hour, they’d quickly dispersed in several directions beside Little Crum Creek.

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Soon after, I began watching the brush for them, wondering how the growing arachnids would fare.

There was no sign of any in May or June when the venusta orchard spiders seemed predominant.

But then in July, having succeeded orchard spiders throughout the herbaceous layer, grown basilica orbweavers suddenly appeared everywhere.

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Some of these pictures demonstrate the typical flat and circular style of web spun by all kinds of orbweavers.

But you’ll also detect the vaulted dimension of the spinnings which earned these particular spiders the name “basilica.”

I wonder, could a few of these divine architects be grown versions of our midfathered hatchlings?  Perhaps.

In any case, as July progressed, the basilica orbweavers showed themselves comfortable enough to couple here.

And they’ve begun suspending another generation of egg sacks that an adult usually tends.  Gifts that keep giving.  I guess I’ll pay them forward.

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Somewhere as a tiny 6-legged larva along Little Crum Creek, this female American dog tick hitched a ride on something small like a mouse or a squirrel, gorged on its blood, dropped off, and molted to a larger size.

The resulting 8-legged nymph then latched on to another mammal, maybe a raccoon or rabbit, and repeated the routine.

Finally I happened by to complete the adult tick’s 3-host cycle, potentially providing the nutrition she’d need to mate and lay more than 4,000 eggs.

Problem is, along the way, ticks can pick up diseases and pass them on to their hosts.

Dog ticks, in particular, could deliver Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Good thing for me then to spot her out of the corner of an eye crawling up a sleeve before feeding.

Not so good for her, however, imposing so boldly on a watchful host, one possessing both a natural aversion to parasitic vectors of pathogens and, when pressed, an inhospitable command of fire.

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