Black Mountain - The Annual Crab Spider-a-thon

Black Mountain macro
Goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia)
All photos by my beautiful wife, Kelli Lewis-Sutherland.

My wife and her best friend, Laurel Abernathy have an annual tradition of visiting the Black Mountain segment of the Cumberland Trail yearly in late August or early September so that they can photograph crab spiders.

Many years ago they discovered that the swaths of Maryland golden-aster (Chrysopsis mariana) growing alongside the trail there are also home to the adorable goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia). Approximately one in ten of the flowers has a little white or yellow spider hiding and waiting for its next meal.

Ghost pipe
Ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora)
We were guaranteed to get our best photos yet, because we now have a Canon EF100mm f/2.8L macro lens and a ring flash. For a little less than a year, we've been experimenting and learning from this combination and have taken lots of pretty decent macros of tiny critters and flowers.

We met up with Laurel and her daughter at the trailhead at 10am and proceeded to very slowly walk towards the tower. This part of the trail is mowed annually, and its lack of forest canopy, while making us quite warm and possibly sunburnt, is the perfect niche ecosystem for the flowers and spiders we are looking for.

Without wasting any time, we started finding spiders in profuse numbers. Soon we've all seen dozens of them, and other insects provided interesting breaks from crab spider-ing.

Being mostly support for this mission, as Kelli had the macro lens, I focused on taking photos for submission to iNaturalist with my cell phone and camera, as well as track logging our short hike. Below is a quick ArcGIS Online map of where we hiked and what we observed. Click here for a full screen view of the map.

Black Mountain macro Ambush bug (Phymata fasciata) Jumping Spider (Salticinae) Eastern Calligrapher (Toxomerus geminatus) Eastern Calligrapher (Toxomerus geminatus) Black Mountain macro Black Mountain macro Eastern Calligrapher (Toxomerus geminatus) Common Tree Crickets (Genus Oecanthus) Crab spider with fly Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) Black Mountain macro Black Mtn macro Phymata fasciata Crab spider Black Mtn Macro Crab spider Wasp (maybe Gnamptopelta obsidianator) Spotted Apatelodes Moth (Apatelodes torrefacta) Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) eating cicada Ghost pipe


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