Back to Nature (Published on - June 1, 2005)
Picnicking with nature leads to lesson learned
Photo by Rick Tremmel
On closer observation we discovered that this field wolf spider was a mom with baby spiderlings upon her back.
The cool spring day begged for a picnic. We recently received a beautiful, picnic backpack as a gift and we were anxious to try it out.

Rick and I enjoy being outdoors, me the writer-artist, Rick the photographer. We make a great team.

With blanket, our favorite foods, a bag of charcoal, lighter and our new backpack we set out for a rendezvous toward the Alafia River in hopes of also discovering some new playgrounds for our kayaks.

The freshly unfurled leaves shown transparent yellow-green as the sun rose higher in the sky.

Little brown rabbits nibbled upon tender blades of grass in the shade of ancient live oaks. Blue Jays, cardinals, a myriad of warblers, robins, and a pair of pileated woodpeckers chirped, sang and twittered from the treed canopy. Bikers in professional gear swooped by along a rugged trail designated: rough terrain, experienced.

At this junction, the waters of the Alafia moved so slowly that a green surface spread from near shore to shore. A common-moorhen made her way across the river to her nestlings. The green glass surface seemed to shatter as clouds in the sky reflected on the calm fracture left behind.

After unpacking and setting up for a day’s adventure in nature, we noticed a curious visitor in our camp. The visitor appeared peculiar, globoid with bumpy spots. I’d never seen a spider like this before and yet I realized something about it was familiar. I took a couple of quick photos and turned back to preparing our meal when I realized Rick was lying on the ground with his lens peered directly upon this odd looking spider.

Hot dogs became blackened, buns a little too crusty but Rick was in a world photographers go when nothing around them exists other than that world. After a long silence he announced, “She’s a mom!” I quickly joined him, but not too close. Spiders are not my favorite things. Sure enough, though, there were possibly 50, tiny, crawling baby spiders upon her back and an egg sack still attached. Now I realized why she appeared familiar. Underneath all those lumpy, bumpy babies was a field wolf spider, Hogna lenta.

If it hadn’t been for Rick’s persistent curiosity and the advantage of a closeup lens we might have missed one of the most important phenomena of our day. In all my travels I have never seen a mother spider like this with baby spiderlings upon her back. Quickly I went over to the grill and removed our well cooked food. Ah well, it will taste just as delicious cold, I thought, and returned to observe this little miracle.

Field wolf spiders are similar to the wolf spiders you find around your house and are fairly nonconfrontational, but will give a bite if provoked or they feel threatened. Although the bite is not venomous it can really hurt. Having experienced such a bite I can attest to that fact. While camping a few years back, a wolf spider decided that my pillow was the perfect place to take a rest until I turned over with my arm upon it. She saw that as a threatening gesture and immediately issued me a nasty bite which was swollen and painful for at least a week.

The field wolf spider female lives in a burrow and she eats other insects. She spins a lens-shaped oval cocoon which she attaches to herself with spinnerets and drags around. The cocoon we saw was gray, but apparently when first spun it is greenish. Take a closer look at our photo and you also will see tiny spiderlings upon our field wolf spider’s back.

This little spider taught me to take my time, to not dismiss anything in nature and to take a closer look, because the most unusual things might just prove to be familiar miracles, back to nature.

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