Today's weird wild neighbor may not seem all that weird since many of us have experienced walking face-first into their orb-webs in a late-summer or early-fall forest. I introduce to you the arrow-shaped micrathena spider.
Here is some very good information that I found on the web site called InsectIdentification.org about this spiky looking critter with eight legs, six eyes, and impressive web constructing skills:
"Arrow-shaped Micrathena Spiders are
everything their name suggests. Instead of a round abdomen, seen in
typical spiders, abdomen is longer and generally triangular in shape,
like the head of an arrow. Like other Micrathenas, this species' female
has sharp spines on it that resemble rose prickles. They protrude from
the edges of the abdomen. These spines are believed to ward off
predators, but some sources suggest they may add to her ability to
conceal herself in her web. Two large points extend from the bottom of
the abdomen and angle away from each other. They are thick and
intimidating with red bases and black tips. Males do not have spines of
any kind; their abdomens have rounded edges. Male are mostly black with white edges, but females abound in color and
pattern. The head, legs and most of the body are red. The center of
the arrow-shaped abdomen is bright yellow with small red spots. Most of
the medium and large spines are tipped with black. Females are twice as
large as males. Both genders spin orb-shaped spiral webs that lie in a
vertical plane (up-and-down). These webs may only be a few feet off the
ground. A thick, short, zigzagged strand of webbing, called a
stabilimentum, is usually just above the center of the web. Many spiral
strands radiating from the center allow the spider to tread easily on
its web. Orbweavers are known to rebuild their webs every day. In autumn, a female Arrow-shaped Micrathena Spider will lay fertilized
eggs on the edge of her web, usually on a leaf right next to it, and
then die before they hatch. The eggs will overwinter in the egg sac and
hatch the next spring. They prefer outdoor habitats with vegetation to
help hide them. Look for them in forests." (https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Arrow-shaped-Micrathena-Spider)
I'm not sure what's the most weirdly impressive characteristic about this creature; the fact that like other spiders it has eight legs and six eyes (I wonder how productive I could be if I had eight legs and six eyes???), the fact that like other orb-weaving spiders it has the ability to produce webbing that consists of varying degrees of stickiness and tensile strength (go ahead and touch the different parts of an orb web, noting the difference in feeling between the central sticky strands and the totally strong and not-sticky-at-all longer anchoring strands), or the fact that the female of this species has such a strikingly colorful and thorn-like abdomen.
This morning, as this female arrow-shaped micrathena crawled across my fingers my heart was filled with gratitude to have the joy of encountering such a fascinating wild neighbor along Barbour Rock Trail in the Tioga State Forest.
Finding God, self, and community in wild spaces. The better we know our wild neighbors the more we'll discover ourselves.
A vision informed by Henry David Thoreau’s interpretation of sauntering, Jesus’ understanding of neighbor, Aldo Leopold’s concept of thinking like a mountain, Rachel Carson’s prophetic voice and John Muir’s way of capturing the beauty and uniqueness of wild neighbors with words.