This has been a week of big black spiders. …In a good way.
First, my wife brought home a huge black wolf spider one of her biology students caught. It stayed the weekend, and my stepson helped me photograph it on Sunday. Later this week, I found the biggest jumping spider I’ve ever seen just outside the house at our Platte River Prairies field headquarters. I had to photograph that too, of course… Here are some of the photos of those spiders, and a little bit about how I got them.
To photograph the wolf spider, I utilized a long-standing technique of mine. Some of you might remember a previous post I wrote about using a wheelbarrow as a wildlife photography studio. I brought out the same wheelbarrow again for this spider, but had my stepson assist me by holding a diffuser (to soften the bright sunlight) and helping to keep the spider from getting away. Having an assistant made the job much easier, though also much less humorous for any potential observers of the process. (Though I’m still pretty sure my neighbors are keeping their eyes open for houses in better neighborhoods. Between the pile of garter snakes beneath our backyard snake board and the giant hairy spider in our wheelbarrow, we’re not exactly everyone’s picture of the ideal neighbor!)
When I first saw the jumping spider, I was talking with our Hubbard Fellows and waiting for someone to meet us at the house. It was perched on a Maximilian sunflower plant in the prairie garden. I put it in a paper bag until I had time to look more carefully at it. Later, I took the top of the sunflower plant the spider had been on, cut it off, stuck it into a pocket gopher mound, and carefully relocated the spider to it. The Fellows then got to watch me squirm around on my hands and knees with my camera, trying to cajole the spider into posing for the camera. We did promise the Fellows a wide range of experiences, I guess…
I’ve spent more than 20 years looking at spiders and other invertebrates in Nebraska prairies, and I pride myself on being a fairly keen observer. It’s an inspiring thing to me that I’d never seen either of these spider species before this week. I hope I never stop finding new prairie species to marvel at.
…especially species that fit into my wheelbarrow!
Many thanks (once again) to Bill Beachly of Hastings College for his help identifying these spiders – which, by the way, he called “lovely ladies”.