The wolf by day

Hi everyone,

Yesterday afternoon Robin, Tim, and Kris came over for a dip in the pool and kabobs on the grill. While we were in the water I noticed a spider slipping into the track around the top of the pool where the liner is attached. It’s a narrow space that often spells doom for beetles, crickets, ants, spiders, and other small creatures that slide two and a half inches down the face of the deck and manage to grab onto the track and climb in. Once there, they have nowhere else to go; can’t climb back up the smooth surface and a watery grave awaits them a few inches below. I often find tiny things flailing away in distress when I’m wading around the pool and return them to the deck so they can get on with their lives. I usually do this by coming up under them with the back of my hand and quickly shaking them off onto safer ground. The day before, I rescued a cricket and set it down beside the base of a geranium pot. It calmly cleaned its antennae by pulling them through its mandibles, stretched its legs as if checking for injuries, and eventually crawled into a small dark opening at the base of the pot and disappeared. Mission accomplished.

But the spider yesterday was different. It was a wolf spider and a big one. These are solitary hunters who usually seek their prey at night. It’s a poisonous creature although its venom won’t kill you. Still, I pointed out its hiding place to everyone in the pool so they wouldn’t accidently put a hand too near it. Then I removed the top of the drain trap as a tray, found a dead hibiscus blossom, and used its protruding stamen to tease the spider until it leaped onto the tray. It took one look at me and jumped into the pool, so pumped it practically ran across the water. Talk about fast! I finally managed to scoop up the wolf and get it onto the deck where it immediately climbed up the side of the same geranium pot and stopped to figure out what to do.

Sandy, who doesn’t care for spiders, splashed water in the spider’s face. In a flash it disappeared around the back of the pot. It then reappeared and came rushing back toward us. At the last instant it paused to look us over and weigh its chances. Then, reluctantly I thought, it backed up and crawled into the dark opening under the pot — the same one where I last saw the hapless cricket the day before. If that cricket was still there when the wolf joined it, I’m sure it isn’t now. My assumption is that the cricket had escaped during the night before the wolf came along. But if it didn’t, there’s one less voice in the choir now. It’s always fascinating to catch a glimpse of nature at work.