Johnson Grass Postscript

by Eric Neubauer

Johnsongrass round postscript: This morning there was a flock of LBBs (little brown birds) on top of it. I couldn’t entice a single bird to come to my feeder in a year. Go figure.

Little brown birds par excellence, the English sparrow Passer domesticus. Photo by Sue Ann Kendall

Late yesterday there was a shrike and a kestrel sitting on the wire above the round.

Loggerhead shrike Lanius ludovicianus. Photo by Sue Ann Kendall.

Also, the pulled-up Johnsongrass is a commodity. The trashman stopped by and asked if I wanted to throw the grass I had just pulled in the truck, but I said, “No, it goes down there,” pointing at the round.

Reconnecting with the Forgotten Spiders of Texas

by Eric Neubauer

Or: The most exciting part of the conference (for me) was getting there!

I’ve been chasing Pardosa wolf spiders from one corner of Texas to another all year. One species I hadn’t encountered was Pardosa littoralis, which I eventually learned was only found in brackish
marshland. I had wanted to check out the Texas coast for wolf spiders for sometime, and the TMN convention gave me an excellent excuse.

So, I drove to Houston via Surfside and Galveston. No one on iNat had encountered Pardosa littoralis south of New York, let alone Texas. They’d been observed in New Hampshire and Nova Scotia at the opposite end of their range. I happily found some in small areas at several locations without a muddy mishap.

I wonder when the last human paid them any attention? Someone must have once, because they were known to be in Texas. Bonus: I’m now comfortable identifying these in Texas, something I couldn’t do before, since I never saw one in person or even in a photo, only those in observations made 2,000 miles away.

Male (left) and female (right) images attached. Body length about 2/10ths of an inch, male (black) slightly smaller than female.

Farewell to the Garden Spiders

by Eric Neubauer

Fall is a sad time of year for some. I had garden spiders arrayed around my house again this year. One picked a low spot between the porch and skirting. It was a good spot at first and she grew quickly. There were lots of suitors while she was the only show in town, including some from the other species.

Argiope aurantia

About that time, she wasn’t catching anything and looked like she might be starving to death, so I started throwing differential grasshoppers into her web. After a while she was doing OK on her own, so I stopped. In all she produced six egg sacs. No other spider came close and most never produced a single sac. After the last sac, she caught no more grasshoppers and died about a week after the photo was taken.

Egg sacs ad what appears to be a former suitor

Prairie Restoration Progress: Johnsongrass Removal

by Eric Neubauer

Many people in the chapter have probably heard about my continuing war on Johnsongrass. Here’s a shot from out in the yard of an area that was once overrun. You can see bunches of native grass which grow to about 4′, drifts of goldenrod, and a poverty weed. It’s about 30′ from the bunchgrass to the house. Although the initial Johnsongrass pulling was taxing, maintaining the area got easier with time. After several years it has dwindled to pulling scatted seedlings once or twice a year. The native plants were already there and just needed sunlight to thrive.

What do I do with all the pulled Johnsongrass? I decided to build haystacks to provide shelter for various animals. This one is conveniently located near the powerline that various raptors were hunting from last winter. The canes are arranged with the roots on the outside so they dry out and die, and the seed heads are on the inside where they won’t spread and germinate. The stack is about 12′ in diameter and 4′ tall now.

Johnson grass haystack

How long can wolf spiders live?

by Eric Neubauer

Sometimes people ask me how long wolf spiders live, and that’s a question I have too. I’ve been looking and lately spotlighting for spiders on my property for a while, and suddenly I can’t find any Schizocosa avida day or night. I know another observer on iNat about 150 miles to the northwest who hasn’t seen any recently either.

chizocosa avida

Checking the months of my observations, I find a peak in March and few from August to December. They have to be there, but are probably too small to be noticed. So, I have one answer: they live about 14 months and are mature for the last few.

Pardosa atlantica

Observations for their entire range on iNat show a similar pattern. On the other hand, adults of some Pardosa are present and breeding year round, so figuring out how long they live is a lot harder and could be less than a year. I suspect Hogna antelucana live well into their second year at least. So, it’s complicated.

Hogna antelucana