Dr. Dave Grant, retired biology professor from Davidson College and spider expert, kept kids and adults alike fascinated this past Saturday, September 21, 2019, regaling participants with stories of past ecological excursions and educating all about the different arachnids that were found. Two techniques were used to collect spiders (and other invertebrate samples) and were examined through small collection bottles.
Dr. Grant and his merry band of naturalists observed that the spiders examined were significantly smaller than typical for this time of year. Noting drought-like weather conditions for many weeks, it was hypothesized that a lack of rain was responsible. Plants are the bottom of any food web and when they are too dry, creatures that rely on those plants as a food source are stunted, resulting in their predators (like spiders!) achieving less optimal growth.
A highlight of the nature outing was watching a beautiful orb weaver in the family Araneidae sucking the juices out of one prey item. While she was in the middle of her tasty liquid meal, she darted over to quickly wrap another insect that had just flown into her web in silk. After securing her second meal, she hastily resumed consuming her first.
Many thanks to Dr. Dave Grant for teaching a new generation of biologists about the fascinating world of spiders! No spiders were harmed during this event and all were released into their natural habitats after observation.
Taxonomic families observed: Anyphaenidae, Araneidae, Clubionidae, Corrinidae, Linyphiidae, Lycosidae, Salticidae, Tetragnathidae