Black Mountain - The Annual Crab Spider-a-thon
Goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia)
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 (Monotropa uniflora)
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.