An innocent-looking sheet of tin, lying prostrate on a hill high above Ohio Brush Creek in Adams County. Seekers of creepy-crawlies love such things; for others, a couple of real horrorshows lurk beneath. We'll have a look in a minute, but first we'll hike up the hill through an interesting cedar glade prairie to get there.
Given the abundance of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies coursing about the Adams county landscape, these caterpillars must be quite common, yet they are only rarely encountered. Most are probably too high in the trees to be noticed.
Ah! This one will get the birders' blood boiling, and I suspect that very few binocular-toters have seen one brooding its eggs. Look closely - it's a Chuck-will's-widow on the nest, a master of camouflage. This chuck nest was but a stone's throw from our destination - that sheet of tin.
I found her to be quite docile, and by lying on my belly was able to get my camera lens within inches. Using a small stick, I could manipulate her into different positions and the spider never acted aggressively. Lest you think I am one of the aforementioned fools prone to carelessly handling such beasts, I kept my fleshy parts well away from the spider at all times! Her messy tangle web was built of very sticky webbing, and make no mistake, you'd not want to become ensnared if you were an insect.
For the most part, black widows are uncommon and quite local in Ohio, and are found most frequently in southernmost unglaciated hill country. A bite can be serious, and you definitely don't want to be on the receiving end of a widow's fangs. A bit of common sense should prevent that from happening, though. Never reach sight unseen into rock crevices, under logs or into wood piles, and take care if exploring old sheds or other structures. If you do encounter a widow in the wild, such as this one above, take time to admire it and just leave it be.
Thanks to naturalist extraordinaire Mark Zloba of the Cincinnati Museum Center for putting me onto this noteworthy sheet of tin.