Monday, July 21, 2014


During yesterday's blackberry picking session I came across a couple interesting spiders. If you don't like spiders you may want to skip this post. I rather like the wee creatures, as long as they are NOT in my house. If they cross the threshold they are fair game, no catch-and-release is practiced here.

The wild blackberries are growing on a strip of land behind and below the house that was leveled by the previous owner with the intention of putting a second mobile home on the property. Above this strip is the backyard with a ten to fifteen foot wide area of overgrown trees, shrubs, vines and blackberry brambles that rises nearly eight feet, and on the other side the forest drops off very steeply into the holler. The level section is anywhere from five to thirty feet wide with overhanging and encroaching greenery, a perfect place for spiders to weave their webs.

My daughter was helping me pick yesterday, and she was the first to notice the spiders. Specifically this wonderful female Spiny-bellied Orb Weaver, Micrathena gracilis, who was busily snacking on an unidentified insect. 

Further down the path I found another female and I was able to get a few pictures from a different angle, showing the very strange shape of the abdomen.

These are small spiders, only about 1/2 inch long, with the males being much smaller than the females and lacking the impressive "spines".  A short distance from the second Spiny-bellied we found another Micrathena species, a female Arrow-shaped Micrathena, Micrathena Sagittata. These spiders are even smaller, the males being about 1/4 inch and females about 1/3 inch, and again the males are spineless. Because of the location of the web I wasn't able to get a shot of the back.

This must have been the day for predatory insects, as I also photographed this handsome dragonfly.

We also saw several red wasps although none were willing to hold still long enough for a photo, and a small millipede crawling through the leaf litter.

On a non-buggy note I located a local organic blueberry U-pick farm and visited it on Saturday, picking 3 gallons of blueberries before I got rained out. Half of them were frozen as soon as I got home, and the other half went into the dehydrator. I plan to go back this week and get several more gallons, weather permitting. Their farm is certified organic, and they offer blueberries and blackberries, either picked or U-pick, and they also sell to Whole Foods Market in Nashville. While chatting with the owner I mentioned having driven to Alabama to buy organic pecans and joked that perhaps I should just follow the harvest, going to where ever the fruit is in season. Cherries are picking now in Washington and Oregon...  LOL

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