Photo of the Week – December 30, 2010

I photographed this juvenile wolf spider on an 18 degree (Fahrenheit) day in the middle of the winter.  At the time, I was walking along a frozen creek, admiring the hoar frost on the surface and looking for photos of ice formations.  The presence of a spider on a frozen creek was so unexpected, it took me a few moments to register what I was seeing.  Not only was there a spider alive and moving around in temperatures well below freezing, it was walking fast enough that I had a hard time following it with my camera.  I still don’t understand how it’s possible, but I saw it nonetheless (and have photographic evidence to back me up!)

A juvenile wolf spider walking along a frozen creek - Lancaster County, Nebraska.

When I got home, I did some research and found that it’s not unusual for wolf spiders to be active for much of the winter, particularly on days when temperatures are around or above freezing (although 18 degrees F is well below that!)  During the winter, wolf spiders feed on other tiny invertebrates that can handle cold temperatures – primarily snow fleas (aka springtails or Collembola).

This has become one of my favorite photos for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s a nice photographic image.  More importantly, it’s a fantastic reminder of how resilient and surprising nature is.

On that note…