lucky strike

Yesterday, I spent a good part of the afternoon wandering around the gardens shooting photographs of insects and spiders. I’d decided to give the “beating around the bush” method of insect searching a try — using a badminton racket and a sheet of white cloth to shake loose a few individuals. My experiment lasted all of about 2 minutes. I soon decided that it’s really not my style — same goes for sweep nets. Both certainly have their place when surveying insect populations and searching for the widest number of species. However, for what I’m doing — observing behaviour and photographing creatures in situ, it doesn’t sit well to shake the little guys out of a bush, shoot photos of them on a white cloth, and then stick them back where I think they came from.

And so it was that I quickly returned to my usual modus operandi of slowly wandering along the footpaths, stopping periodically to study the vegetation for long, contemplative moments before moving on. To find insects and spiders, I depend largely on shape recognition skills as well as accumulated knowledge of habitat and behaviour gained through long hours spent wandering just as I have described. Should you ever happen to accompany me on an insect walk someday, you’ll find that, at best, I’m only half with you — for which I shall apologize in advance. The kind of insect watching I do requires some concentration and I don’t seem to have enough brain cells to manage two things at once.

But back to yesterday’s walk…

Within a minute or two, I had my first “lucky strike” of the afternoon. I came upon a cluster of Argiope trifasciata spiders hanging out in some goldenrod. Most interesting to me was that there was a nice concentration of them in a very small area — perhaps less than a square meter. Two young females had made parallel orbs, one almost on top of the other (click on above image for larger view). What a wonderful sight. Nearby, I found another young female on an orb, with two males suspended on less intricate orbs — one parallel and just to one side, and the other several centimeters below (see image below – one male is seen to the left of the female). Nearby, I found another female with a male at the corner of her orb, and yet another female alone on her web. When I come upon such a sight in the garden, I always feel like I’ve struck treasure — and in fact, in my world, I pretty much have.

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10 Responses to “lucky strike”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    Great spider finds. Definitely treasures.

    We could easily walk together. Roger and I hardly talk. When we take friends with us who do talk (non-stop about everything), we only walk with them once. Walking for us is both observation and meditation. Our conversations are mostly like this: “Oh my god, look at that.”

  2. Cindy Says:

    I too rarely talk while on my walks.. it’s counter productive to the reason I’m out there to begin with, with the exception of my hubby because then I have an extra pair of eyes with me. Beautiful images of the spiders Bev.

  3. burning silo Says:

    Robin & Cindy – Sounds like we’re all alike! Don and I sometimes find ourselves amazed at how loud some people are when out in the forest.

  4. Wayne Says:

    Yet another post that really appeals to me, and not just for the Argiope photos.

    I’ve always been a little morbidly fascinated with the rainforest canopy fogging techniques for stunning/killing canopy dwellers, which then fall to the net-covered ground for collection. It’s a little more extreme than the tennis racket method, and was used to good effect in the movie Arachniphobia. EO Wilson, probably one of my favorite scientists and writers, was (I think) the guy who catalogued species on islands of different sizes and figured out that the diversity proceeded as the square of the size of the island. I think he started out with mangrove islands for his smaller ones.

    I don’t really choose my local friends for their attention span or staying power during hikes through the woods. But just by accident we do have a wonderful friend, an artist actually but who even as a 20-year-old took botany courses and has ever since been one of the most meticulous observers. He finds things on our walks together that even I miss. And it’s as you say – neither of us pays much attention to the other except during those moments when we’re discussing something one or the other of us has found. He’s capable of beating me out of the span of time spent just wandering and looking.

  5. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – Yes, the rainforest canopy fogging is another one of those techniques that has its place in species surveys. I can’t imagine any other way of surveying that kind of habitat.
    Your artist friend sounds very like one of my botanist friends – who also happens to be good at finding insects and spiders (goes with the territory, I think).

  6. John Says:

    These photos are wonderful. I stumbled across another blog that talks about spiders that may be the same type as those in your photos. You may be interested. http://texasnature.blogspot.com/

  7. burning silo Says:

    John – Thanks! Also, thanks for the link to the spider post on the Texas Nature blog. We have that species (Argiope aurantia) and the above species (Argiope Trifasciata) here at the farm. Right now, there are about 30 of the A. aurantia spiders with huge orbs in the “spider garden” part of the yard. So far, I’ve seen 2 egg cases, but there will be many more soon. Here’s a photo and post about the A. aurantia spiders that are described on the Texas Nature blog. They are large, colorful, beautiful spiders.

  8. Lori Witzel Says:

    Yippeee! Spider pics! Wonderful job stalking; I’ve had trouble getting a day without wind but with spiders, so mine are too blurry to share (my photo skills are evolving.)

    Slim pickins here for stalking partners, but I will check out John’s mention of texasnature.blogspot and see who/where they are.

  9. burning silo Says:

    Lori – Thanks — and yes, it’s very difficult to get good spider shots if the wind is blowing the vegetation around. Glad you dropped by to visit!

  10. romunov Says:

    Looks like Argiope are quite popular. :D