I was bent over, handling clumps of old pine straw mulch when a large brown spider came out from underneath. I said, “Hello” because I’d seen many of these spiders before and knew they were harmless; though I have no keen desire to just fetch one up and be friends. This one looked different though. I noticed she was carrying something quite remarkable and bizarre slung under her abdomen: a big, beautiful, blue orb. And it was the most astonishing color of blue – was it azure or cerulean? At first I thought it might have been some kind of bird’s egg she had stolen. She guarded it jealously and drug it around, stuck to her backside. I decided it might be her egg. I said, “Goodbye” and we quickly parted company as I went back to work.
This apparently was an encounter with a type known as a Wolf Spider, from the family Lycosidae, meaning, “wolf.” I once knew one of these who lived comfortably just over the water in my boat shed and grew to be a tremendous size, largely because it was in a protected spot and the fact he/she lived for years. Like all spiders it was a carnivore and I wondered if it also fished.
Wolf spiders aren’t big on building elaborate webs but they have the equipment, spinnerets and glands, and can eject enough silk to line a tunnel hideout and even make a trap door for it. To compensate for their lack of an ensnarement strategy, their capture and kill technique is to suddenly bolt out of their hole and pounce on a victim to deliver a venomous bite. (I didn’t say they don’t bite, they just can’t bite humans very well because our skin to too thick.) With six eyes, they have excellent vision. These reflect very brightly when you shine a light at them after dark. They also have a very acute sense of touch so they can say to their victims, “All the better to feel you in my arms, my dearie.”
Another thing they can do with their web material is creating those egg balls. All the ones I’ve seen in the literature are grayish, so I guess Camp Salmen is lucky to have Lycosidae with such specially colored ones. In fact, I invite the public to come looking for them, like Easter eggs. The parent spider keeps her tail raised high so it doesn’t scrape the egg ball on the ground. When the babies hatch, the adult spider, which has been so ugly to everyone else, turns into an exemplary parent as the babies crawl on top and ride royally around, enjoying her protection.