Tag Archives: Arachnid

Spider-mom

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On the day after Mother’s Day it’s important to recognize all mothers. Including the mama wolf spider. A mother who carries around a giant silk-spun sack holding hundreds of babies. She does not eat. She does not rest. She has the single-mindedness of a mother. One whose only goal is to drag her sack of children until they are ready for the real world. But even when they hatch they are not ready for the real world because when her sack full of children now climb on her back. And now her abdomen looks like a pineapple with the top cut off. The spiderlings stay on the mama-spider-ride for a week or two before venturing off on their own. Probably without so much as a thank you.

If you are a mom, arachnid or otherwise, know that you are appreciated. And that one day your kids will finally get off your back.

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Need a new yoga pose? Try the stretch spider!

The still brown grass crunches under my feet as I walk the salt marshes of the Goodwin Islands at the mouth of York River. I stop when when I see a blade of grass scramble across the other grass blades like a panicked airplane passenger who climbs over other passengers trying to get to the evacuation slide first. I snatch the panicked grass blade in my hand and it sprouts eight legs and repels from my hand down a silken thread, dangling for a moment like Christmas ornament before transmogrifying back into a grass blade. My grass blade is a spider in the tetragnatidae family. Tetra means ‘four’ and gnathid means ‘jaw’; it looks like it has four jaws but she doesn’t. See, science isn’t so hard once you crack the code. Tetragnathid (the ‘g’ is silent) spiders are also called ‘stretch’ spiders because they stretch their bodies in their own yoga pose: four legs forward and two to hold on and two legs back (some spiders try other combinations). Make yourself as thin as possible. And try to look like that grass blade or leaf or cattail.

I am amazed by this spider that looks like dead grass. I assume the yoga pose and combined with the drab-colored yoga outfit is to blend in to avoid detection by 1) potential prey and 2) potential predators. If she had not have scrambled, I would have never seen her. Even when I found her and made her pose for me on a blade of grass I still had trouble figuring out where the grass ended and she started. Look at that pose. Incredible strength and limberness. Stretch spiders can be found in your house, your backyard or your garden. So if you’re looking for a new twist for your boring yoga routine, run to the closet tree you can find, stretch out and see if anyone can find you.

This spider reminds me of another cryptic yoga pose: the toothpick grasshopper.

Namaste.

The vigilance of the tick

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Ever wonder how a tick finds you and bites you without you knowing? And what’s happening when she bites you? And is it always a she (most of the time, yes)? I explain tick biology in my latest newspaper article.

In the marsh, ticks are ever vigilant

The images above are of a tick ‘questing’ (looking for a host) and of the barbed straw she plunges into your skin without so much concern for you and slurps up your protein rich blood.

In other news, here is an article I published on the reed boat:
Our marshland nemesis, the wily Phragmites