In the changing light of the early afternoon, I began chasing male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies. That’s no surprise, I’m sure.
But what did surprise me was that I didn’t notice any females. And that reminded me of the Calico Pennants, for in the early summer it was the males of that species that I spotted most often. Where were the females?
Perhaps mating was no longer on the minds of the meadowhawks and given the cooler temp of the day, I could convince one to climb upon my finger to gain some warmth.
And so it did . . . until in a flash, it flew off. In pursuit of what? I didn’t know.
And so I turned my attention to a Mottled Grasshopper, also known as a Pine Tree Spur-throated Grasshopper, or more scientifically Melanoplus punctulatus. Had it been on a tree, I might have missed spying it, but upon the rock it posed thus allowing me to spend some time in admiration. Ah, the eyes. Two segmented antennae. Those teeny, tiny feet that support such a large body. And that body suited in armor. Its colors and patterns reflecting an artistic creator. Lest I get carried away, I moved on in search of more dragonflies.
And suddenly I spotted a canoodling pair that flew past me and landed on an oak tree, where their bodies formed the mating circle. But again, just as they’d flown in, off they went in tandem, toward the pond so he could make sure it was his sperm that fertilized the eggs she deposited along the shoreline.
What was I to do? Why, look around, of course. And that’s when I spotted a huge orbweaver in action as it dangled from the camp shed.
I was immediately mesmerized as I realized it was a grasshopper that must have climbed the building and become ensnared. The red squirrel above me was not as enchanted with my presence and so he scolded.
Looking up into the white pine, I searched for the branch upon which he sat.
It took a moment for he was rather high up in the tree, but at last I spied the chatterbox.
But my main focus was on the feast waiting to happen. First it had to be wrapped.
I’ve seen wrapped insects in webs before, but I what I found most fascinating about this one was the size of the predator and its prey. The spider was hardly daunted.
From different angles, I tried to gain a better understanding. Not only was the wrap so intriguing, but have you ever wondered how such a large spider can dangle upside down, held only by thin threads of silk? Then again, have you ever broken through a spider web? Some are mighty strong and sticky.
While that action continued on the front of the shed, I looked to the side to see if there was any evidence of an old feast. None was evident, but I did see another grasshopper heading toward the roof line.
And then it turned . . . toward the front of the building. A wrong turn?
Indeed. Slowly it advanced . . . until it encountered an entanglement and realized its poor choice of direction.
With care, it retreated.
And so I returned to the front of the shed to check on the action where the well wrapped meal could have been mistaken for a small fish.
Orbweavers typically bite their prey to kill them, then wrap their meals in silk for later consumption. Really wrap. I watched for well over an hour and then headed off for a hike with my guy.
Just before leaving I glimpsed at the side where the live grasshopper had tried to escape. In the moment, it was a success story for I didn’t see it anywhere.
Upon returning three hours later, I immediately checked upon my friend. Wait. Did I just call this incredibly huge, hairy/spiny arachnid “my friend”? I do suffer like many from arachnophobia, but at the same time, their structures and behaviors garner my awe.
As for the wrapped grasshopper, I guess you could say it was “toast.” The spider had turned and it appeared that meal was being consumed.
I looked for crumbs this morning, but found nary a morsel. Somewhere there may be a small ball of indigestible parts on the ground that I overlooked. Even the web had been destroyed, which is typical spider behavior–consume the silk as morning approaches, thus reabsorbing any moisture used in its construction, as well as the dew. Perhaps it’s like a sip of juice to help with digestion.
A meal of toast and juice–a spider’s feast.