(For our first official cryptoinsect, arachnophobes may wish to leave the cantina.)
All right, some of you have been clamoring for insects. I am nothing if not (occasionally) obliging. Besides, I developed a brand-new love for insects when I got the camera with the good macro mode. Things I used to dodge with a shudder, I now stalk, crooning things like “whose-a-good-bug-then?” and “you’re-beautiful-yes-you-are” as I shove the lens in their bizarre little faces. I’m happy to report that, despite provocation, nobody has stung, bitten or otherwise maimed me yet.
One problem remains: I’m a geologist, not an entomologist. So the vast majority of the time, I have no idea what I’m looking at. I know its broad category: bee, ant, caterpillar… But as to species, no clue. Feeding habits, mating strategies, fun factoids, and other interesting tidbits are right out of reach. So I don’t post the results of my macrobug mania very often. I hate doing the “I have no idea what it is, but it sure is purty!” thing.
Yet some among you occasionally mention an interest in insects. Perhaps there are even those among you who can pontificate upon pollinators, burble about beetles, rhapsodize about roaches, and, generally, inform us about insects. And I can provide you the fodder. So why not?
Right. Allow me to set the scene for you: it’s a fine late summer afternoon in the North Cascades. There’s a wonderful trail along Highway 2 called the Iron Goat Trail that takes you along some quite interesting remains of the old railroad that ran through it about 100 years ago. We’ve just done a nice amble along the concrete wall of the old snowshed (which has some fascinating and unexpected geologic features I shall be awing you with in the future). And we’re on the way back when the sunshine breaks through the trees and gleams from a gargantuan support thread that seems the size of a guy wire.
So we stop, backtrack a few steps, and look for the spider responsible. We soon find this gray-brown guy perched in the center of a maclargehuge web.
It’s the size of a very plump Rainier Cherry – fairly stout by local spider standards. It’s hanging about at eye level, between the two widely-spaced trees it’s using as supports. And there’s nothing between us and the spider.
What else can you do when you have a camera with a great macro mode, an eye-level spider, and no obstructions but step up, shove the camera in its face, and snap away?
Saying to the very large spider all the while, “Please don’t bite me.” Which, happily, it didn’t. It didn’t even seem fussed by a camera getting thrust into all eight eyes.
So, it obviously doesn’t eat people. Any ideas which PNW spiders are gray-brown, weave enormous waves, and enjoy posing for photo ops?