Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just walkin' cross the road...

Well, it all started when a dear friend asked if I would like to go to the Los Angeles Zoo's new exhibit on spiders, and I said. "Yes!" My life has become a bit crazy and that particular weekend I also promised I would take some shots of the first rain in the mountians.... This was the end of September....

My friend is very uncomfortable about spiders. She says it is because of the numbers of the large garden spiders that cover the garage doors and back doors of her parent's home in Ohio next to Lake Erie. She describes how you can wash all the spiders off in the morning with a hose, but the next day, they are back covering the doors and walls again. In the San Gabriel area we have large garden spiders that drape large webs in the evening and which are destroyed by morning light.

There are nocturnal orb weavers and diurnal orb spinners. When disturbed, the diurnal spiders use the 'bounce' (if you touch the web the spider vibrates in place in the center of the web for many minutes) as a defense against the destruction of their webs. Nocturnal spinners do not need to do this. Large moths like the the sphinx moth, are a large part of the nocturnal spider's diet and they tear the web apart. And the only thing that could fly through - bats rarely fly through their webs... The nocturnal orb spider just runs to its hiding place when under attack (the web attachment under a leaf or twig at the top of the web... or under the the light next to your back door!!!)... Rarely, will you find nocturnal orb spiders still in the center of the web in the morning from the night before. They usually are hiding in their special spot well before the sun comes up but will return to fix their web when dark falls.

Daytime is bad for spiders and their webs because of birds. Birds eat spiders and they fly through the webs which are woven in clearings to catch flying insects. The bouncing defense of the diurnal orb spider confuses birds - makes it hard for the bird while in flight to see the spider and ... diurnal orbs spiders weave heavy stripes radiating from the center of the web which looks more 'solid' while the spider shakes.

Well, back to my friend. I am real proud of her. She has come a long way from her days in Mugu when all spiders made her skin crawl... She used to kill all spiders that found their way into her bathtub or sink. But now, she wanted to see all sorts of spiders - live spiders - at the Zoo.

I had to take this small detour up the mountain and we visited the pipe-cleaner forest. This area on the mountain where the trees have been burned so many times though, still alive, have no limbs so the needles grow out from the tall main trunks. They look like they have had a 'poodle cut'

Well, I got the shots I needed and so we were set to drive to the Los Angeles Zoo. As we were zooming down the winding road my friend shouts, "STOP!! A TARANTULA!!" I turned around and then parked and sure enough, there was a wandering male hunting for his lady love.

(The poor male has to hunt around for the ladies who sit in their lair... and it's the males who become the meals for the tarantula hawks this time of year, too) And, of course... in harms way on the road.... These poor fellows tend to get into ALL sorts trouble looking for love in all the wrong places. So, we got out of the car and decided to prod the fuzzy guy back into the brush.... My friend helped scoop him up with a stick and not drop him (they are fragile!!! and these guys do NOT jump!!). The spider tried to entice us to touch his back end by waving it about and rubbing the stinging hairs with his back legs and with his long adroit spinnerets.

Needless to say we missed the opening of the Spider show that day, and we met the next weekend to oooggle at the black widows and brown recluse at the Zoo.... but, I think the best was meeting a wild and crazy 'guy' waving his cute hairy butt!!! In the street, no less!!!

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