Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day weekend 2013 - Spiders and Snakes!

I found some neat things in the yard this weekend.  I hope Ethan and Caleb will like looking at these critters.

This is a mother Wolf Spider carrying her egg sac.  It is attached to the end of her abdomen.  Wolf Spiders have four pairs of eyes.  Can you see some of her eyes on the black stripes of her head?  Wolf Spiders are hunters and do not build a web to catch their prey.  They can see well at night as they look for insects in the grass.
This is an Orb Weaver Spider in her web that she builds each night and takes down during the day.  This spider is known as a Cross Spider and sometimes as a Barn Spider.  They often have two white spots at the rear of their abdomen. Can you see them?  In late summer the females get large from a season of feeding on insects of all sizes.  Recently I saw a Cross Spider with a dragonfly in its web that was at least twice the size of the spider.  She finished eating it in less than a day. 

This is a Green Lynx Spider that a coworker found behind the lab a few weeks ago.  It is missing a couple legs.  It is a male spider which we can tell by the two short pedipalps that have "club" shaped ends.  Look at the area at the top of its head.  Maybe you can see a row of four small eyes with two larger eyes beneath those and two more smaller eyes below and between the larger pair of eyes.  These guys are not venomous to humans.  They are ambush hunters and wait in the bushes to catch passing insects.  They use the spikes on their legs to help hold their prey.  At one time they were used in cotton fields to eat insects that damaged the cotton plants.

This is the spider that used to scare me.  Now I respect it and watch it carefully.  They are venomous and can hurt us if they bite us.  But they are fairly slow when they walk and I just try to pay attention.  Your great grandmother (Mana) collected two of these spiders for me to take to the museum in Raleigh for other people to see.  I have seen her move them carefully to the field away from her house.  Most people just kill them.  I like it that I am not so afraid of them now.

This is the under side of the mother Black Widow.  The red hour-glass shaped spot is a definite identifying mark of this spider.  The "globe" shape of its abdomen is also a characteristic of black widows.

This is a young Eastern Worm Snake.  They usually have a medium gray back with a light pink belly.  They eat earthworms and slugs.  They will try to "burrow" between your fingers when you hold them.  Sometimes they will drag the pointy end of their tail across your hand.  They usually grow to about 11 inches or so.  They are fun to look at and to hold.  They are very squirmy so it will tickle you a little.  They do not harm people.

This is an adult Rough Earth Snake.  They live in the same places that Worm Snakes live, under rotten logs and wet leaves.  This snake is similar in color to the Worm Snake but has a creamy colored belly.  It also has keeled scales.

If you look closely, you can see the little ridge on each scale.  There is another Earth Snake that lives in North Carolina.  It is called the Smooth Earth Snake.  Each of its scales is smooth and does not have a ridge (keel).  The eye of this individual is cloudy looking.  It will probably be shedding its skin soon because it has out grown this one.

I found this Southern Copperhead snake behind our house earlier this summer.  They are venomous so you don't want to handle them.  They have an attractive color pattern that helps them hide in old leaves.  Their eye pupils are not round like non-venomous snakes, but vertical pupils.  Notice that the snake has darker bands across its body and that the band is narrow along its spine and gets wider as it goes down the sides.  We saw two last year, but many years we don't see one at all.  Often they will vibrate their tail in the leaves to warn that they are nearby.  They would rather bite something they are going to eat (like a mouse) than waste their venom on something big like us.

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