Reminder: You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a full-screen image.
I’ve continued with my night jaunts to Sabino Canyon. Being there on a dark and nearly moonless night is an interesting experience. The darkness is all-encompassing and one cannot see beyond the circle of light cast by his or her flashlight or headlamp. Interesting things turn up suddenly: they literally loom up out of the darkness with just a couple seconds’ warning. Spotting a rattlesnake as it crossed the trail ten feet in front of me, as I did the other night, is a good way to get my pulse racing.
One creature that gives a fair bit of warning is the Wolf Spider. Wolf Spiders are nocturnal. They are burrow dwellers and are not visible on the surface during the daylight hours. At night they emerge and sit on the desert floor, inches or so from their burrows. They are ambush hunters. Typically, a Wolf Spider sits motionlessly waiting for prey — generally an insect or other invertebrate — to come along. The spider is exquisitely sensitive to vibrations. It can “feel” its prey coming with the many hairs on its legs. When the prey is close enough the spider pounces and has its meal.
A Wolf Spider is quite large. It resembles a small tarantula, although it is only about 1/4 of a tarantula’s size. A big Wolf Spider will grow to about 1 1/2 or 2 inches in length. At night, it is visible from a distance of 50 feet or more. Its eight eyes reflect light and in darkness they glow brilliantly. Imagine walking along in total darkness and seeing a tiny point of bright light a dozen yards or more in front of you shining like a beacon. That’s what a Wolf Spider looks like in pitch darkness.
Vision is not the spider’s long suit. It really cannot see very much at all other than to differentiate light from darkness. It relies much more on its sense of touch and vibration for hunting and defense.
They are a common sight at night. In an hour’s walk I certainly will spot a dozen or more of these big spiders.
By reputation, a Wolf Spider will defend itself if accosted. Although it is not considered to be dangerous it can nevertheless deliver an extremely painful bite if it is molested. The spider in the second photo (above) has rocked back on its hind legs and assumed a defensive stance. I was at least two feet from the spider when I made the photo so we posed no danger to each other. Nevertheless it was warning me not to come too close.
One last point of interest. Look closely at the second photo and you’ll see a tiny black creature just underneath the spider’s head. What is it? It is no insect (it has eight legs). I believe it is a very small whip scorpion, another species of nocturnal invertebrate. The spider and the scorpion appear to be unaware of each other.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 125, M setting. The first photo was made at f13 @ 1/160, the second at f11 @ 1/160.