My son Sebastian and I were walking along a trail through the woods when suddenly he screamed- "Dad! I have an alien life form on my face!" Being the brave Dad that I am, I quickly ran- a nervous habit I have whenever I hear a blood curdling scream while walking in the woods. After I had ran for a bit, I decided that I had better go back and check on my son.
He was not amused. "I'm glad that I hadn't been attacked by a bear- some help you would have been!" Being wise and patient, I realized that this was a perfect time for me to teach him more wisdom from nature.
"Son," I said, as I lit my pipe, and took a few puffs for effect. "Nature is all about the quick and the dead. If you're not quick, you're dead." He looked at me like I was the alien life form and then began examining the original cause for all of the commotion.
It turns out that his scream was caused by an upclose look at the decidedly alien looking Spined Micrathena spider. It is an orb weaver spider that makes lovely (when covered in dew or seen shimmering in the sunlight), usually invisible webs across trails. The spider considerately builds a web at a height of "face level." In this case- the face level of a nine year old boy. The actual height of the web is typically between 3' to 8'.
Sebastian had walked into a female Spined Micrathena's web. How did I know that? Didn't you see the legs on that spider in the photo- that's no male, baby. Actually, I'm pulling your leg! Ha, ha- nature is fun. No, in all seriousness, only the females spin webs. So, if you walk into a Spined Micrathena web- and you will- and see a spider sitting in the middle of the web- please tip your hat to the lady.
"So, Daniel, how can I walk in the woods without running into one of these spider webs and thereby messing up my hair?" I'm glad you asked- there is a solution. Walk at night. The female Spined Micrathena eats her web after sunset- and then rebuilds it again the next morning after sunrise. Of course, if you do hike at night- look out for the Barn Spider- it is much bigger and uglier- but more about him in his own blog posting.
For the scientific readers: the Spined Micrathena is in the orb weaver family. It's scientific name is Micrathena gracilis.
I hereby submit the Spined Micrathena for the following
spider award: one nomination for Most Inconsiderate to Hikers.