Spider Dilemma, My

SpiderWebB:W

I wanted desperately to write a blog about Daddy-Long-Leg spiders.  But, there was a technical problem that I could not solve.  It’s not that there is a shortage of this species here in the North Country.  Indeed, just the opposite is true.  They are everywhere.  But try to get a photo of one…it’s not impossible, just very difficult.  Unless you own a Nikon DSLR with an 900:1 digital zoom lens, you’re out of luck.  The long legs are not really the issue, it’s the rest of the thing that’s problematic.  The Daddy-Long-Legs has a body the size of a match head, you know, those paper matches that they used to give away in bars.  It’s like trying to get a good photo of a fly on the fight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard.

I found a Daddy-Long-Leg spider on the railing of our deck and took this photo:

Daddy

The gray arrow accurately points out the location of the Daddy-Long-Legs.  See it?

I realized that photo wasn’t going to make much of a blog, really.  I mean, I can hardly see the arrow much less the spider.

That was end of that idea…for awhile, anyway.

This morning I decided to brush off the R-pod in preparation for our trip to Florida in October.  There were nests and webs everywhere.  But after giving the camper a good cleaning, I noticed something near the front, where the hitch and propane tanks are located.  It was a spider web.  But this time, the spider was big enough to photograph.

Rushing back into the house, I try to find my iPhone 5 and snap a few images. I reached for my Nikon DSLR, but remembered that I had taken the chip out because it had other photos I needed for another blog.  I tried finding my CoolPix, but realized we had put in one of our suitcases for our recent trip to Ireland.  My mini-iPad was not that good because you had to fiddle with the touch screen in order to “zoom” in.  I settled on my iPhone 5 and even though I had to spread my fingers on the touch screen, decided that I could get the photo I wanted.  Now, I had something to blog about.

SpiderNext step was to identify the spider.  I can’t post something about a spider and keep calling it “spider”.  I had to find out what kind of spider it is.  I hurry back inside the house and look over my collection of Peterson Field Guides.  I don’t have one on spiders, only insects.  They’re not the same.  They are scientifically classified as being wholly separate.  So, I Google “spider” and find a quick identification key intended for the amateur naturalist.  [Notice I didn’t use the term “naturist”–those are the people who run around naked.]

I set to work trying to find out the species.  This was not easy because the spider in question hangs upside-down near the center of its web.  Not only that, but its underside was facing me and it’s identifying marks were on its back.  I pondered this for a few minutes before arriving at a solution.  I needed a mirror to see the top of the spider.  So, I rushed back inside the house and found my wife’s make-up mirror.  I ran back outside and carefully slid the reflecting surface (mirror) under and beneath the web.  I ran back into the house to replace the mirror.  It was too dark to get a good view, but I narrowed it down to three possibilities;

  • The Orb Weaver (Araneus spp)
  • The Cross Spider (Araneus diadematus)
  • The Shamrock Spider (Araneus trifolium)

It should go without saying that we’re talking about the genus Arachnids.  We all know that.  I also know that fully 75% of the human population are intimidated by spiders (only a fraction have full-blown Arachnophobia).  I’m in that 75% population cluster.  If you want to understand my relationship with spiders in more detail, order the 1958 version of The Fly on Netflix.

But all this left me with another and more complex dilemma.  I don’t especially like spiders, but I am aware that they eat mosquitoes, which I like even less.  So, do I whisk away the aforementioned spider so I won’t feel threatened each time I hitch the trailer to the car?  Or, do I let the mosquito-munching spider live?  That leads to another problem.  Do I transport this Arachnid to Florida?  What if it’s considered an alien species down there?  What if I am Person Zero who starts an Ecological Problem, a situation second only to the Rapture?

Life is not easy up here in the North Country.

BiggerSpider

[This is as close as I get.]

 

 

 

 

Cause and Effect: My Front Porch Dilemma

Image

Today, on my front porch, I was faced with a dilemma.  I was a witness to an act of nature, an act that is repeated a billion times each minute here in the North Woods.  If you factor in the endless variations on this particular situation that occur world-wide, then the number is incalculable.

But I was allowed a peak of only one such entanglement.  And, that is what it was.  An entanglement.  As I stepped off the porch onto the ramp leading to the new stone walkway, something caught the corner of my left field of vision.  It was under the cornice of the roof, you know, where the giant icicle grows from November until late April.  The mass of this ice, building drop by drop, grows into something large and frightening as a homegrown glacier.  Take a portion of Niagara Falls..drop the temperature to -75 degrees and you have an inkling of what drapes itself off the corner of our roof.  I’ve considered renting it out to ice-climbers for weekend workouts and crampon practice.

Thank heavens it’s over the guest room.

But I digress.

What caught my eye was a rather large dragon-fly.  We have hundreds of them on our back deck.  I, who have a revulsion to mosquitos, black flies, spiders, snakes and larger-than-mouse-size rodents (I can’t bring myself to even utter the word), find dragon flies beautiful and non-threatening.  It’s about the only flying insect in the entire Adirondacks that is non-threatening (you can’t count moths and Monarch butterflies).  The dragon-fly mates while flying and the males is upside-down and backwards, but delicate eyes and minors might be reading this blog so I can’t go into details.  One sat on my knee a few days ago.  It was so passive and friendly, I almost gave it a name and thought about taking it for a walk.  They don’t make leashes that small, however.

My appreciation for the dragon-fly increased 1,000 % when Mariam told me she saw one eating small gnat-like things in mid-flight.  Now, there’s a bug I can like.

So, here’s the problem: this particular fly was caught in a single strand of spider web material.  As I stood looking at it, I didn’t notice the gossamer web and I thought the fly was levitating.  I knew they were really cool, but still…

I had forgotten about seeing the spider’s web a few days before.  I asked Mariam if I should swipe it away…not a good thing for visitors to see as they approach our front door.  We thought for a moment and decided to leave it unmolested.  After all, you don’t have to be Charles Darwin or John Muir to know that spiders eat insects.  (Remember, I don’t like insects…or spiders, so that was a whole other dilemma for another blog).

Back to the imprisoned dragon-fly.  I hadn’t noticed the web so I tickled it ever so slightly.  It jumped to life and tried to fly away.  But it was caught by the spider.

That’s the moment when the enormity of the situation hit me like a lug nut flying off a truck on 7th Avenue.  Should I walk away, not interfering with the cycle of nature and let the spider feast on the fly?  Or, should I deprive the spider of its honestly won reward of good home-made fly goo?

I couldn’t help but to insert the human factor (mine) into this picture.  “Take Nothing But Pictures & Leave Nothing But Footprints” is what all the signs tell us when we are in an area of great natural beauty.  And, this scene on my porch was natural beauty.

My choices were simple: do nothing and let nature “happen” i.e., the fly gets eaten, or free the fly.  Now if I interfered by freeing the fly, said fly would, hopefully, go off to eat more insects that annoyed the hell out of me.  I win.  The dragon-fly wins.  The spider loses.

Before I raised my hand, I considered further ramifications.  If the fly dies early for lack of food, he/she may not have a chance to reproduce, thus lessening the overall number of spider in the future.  If I let the fly die, there may not be time to reproduce, thus lessening the future generation(s) of dragon flies.  Therefore, more annoying insects.

I tried to project this dilemma into the distant future.  One pair of dragon flies can, conceivably, be responsible for millions of future generations of their species.  The same goes for the spider.  My actions, in the real natural world, would have far-reaching consequences.

I decided to take a moral leap into the unknown.  I freed the dragon-fly.  It didn’t hang around long enough to thank me.  Probably because it had some time in the web contemplating its short term future.  They’re not that stupid.

What made me decide to do what I did?  I think it was, while I was mulling the situation over, I was attacked by a mosquitos.

I deprived the mosquito of future generations by smashing it into a bloody spot on my forearm.