Last Sunday, I headed off to Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio to do some major exploring, and photography. This was a solo trip, which is a nice thing to do on occasion, as I can click off serious volleys with the camera without irking anyone.
As always happens on such forays, I found plenty of interest - more material than I'll ever get around to blogging, probably. But there were a few serendipitous standout finds, and the one that follows was the King of Finds on this day.
ALERT: This post does involve a spider, for you arachnophobes. But please, have no fear and read on anyway. Pictures don't bite, and this beast, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is one of the coolest looking spiders out there.
Anyway, our story unfolds on the steep bank just behind the car, and just past that yellow gate. I was wandering up the road, and right away saw a Bird's-foot Violet, Viola pedata, in flower. This most beautiful of our violets is running late this spring, and it was the only one that I saw in flower this day. I walked to the plant, and leaned down to clear some grasses from the field of view before making a photo. Just then, a medium-sized beetle buzzed by, and promptly became ensnared in a tangled jumble of spider webbing. I was sort of absently wondering whether the webmaster might be home, as I continued paying the violet some mind.
The widow was just as cool as you'd ever hope to be. She didn't run wildly to the hapless victim, as some lesser spiders would. She just sort of strutted through the cobwebbing in her own sweet time, while I thanked my lucky stars that such a treat would land right in my lap.
CLICK HERE to see photos of a Southern Black Widow that I encountered a few years back.
In general, these are apparently rather locally distributed spiders in Ohio, and largely confined to the southernmost reaches of the state. Widows probably are not particularly rare, but they're shy and retiring, and often hide in nooks and crannies where they won't be seen.
By now, she's got a fair bit of webbing around the victim, which is well on its way to mummification. I've said it before and I'll say it now: DO NOT return as an insect. Your fate is not likely to be a pleasant one.
I am a firm believer in never killing something just because it scares you, or you think it somehow unworthy. Even black widows have their place, and they are a fascinating part of our biodiversity. But I'm always flopping to the ground to take photos or study something, and this encounter reminded me to take a more careful look before I go prostrate.