Sunday, September 04, 2005

Drama at night in the Shakespeare Garden

Scene: The Shakespeare Garden
Time: About 9:30 p.m.
Present: Lee, Noreen, Marie, Nick, Jimmy

Funnel web spider [sp?] with prey.

Close-up of same spider with prey revealed

The sap tree we've been monitoring for Underwing moths during most of July and August has begun to lose its attraction. Fewer and fewer moths have been coming to dine on the rather awful-smelling stuff that oozes from its rough bark.. Time to set up the moth light in the Shakespeare Garden.

On Friday, Sept 2, after draping our sheet over a rustic bench and plugging the black light into its battery pack, we were waiting for moths to arrive when a different drama captured our attention.

The garden at night is filled with crickets --you can hear their loud chorus in every bush. It's a lovely sound, Thanks to a new book, a "Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids and Crickets of the United States", we were able to identify, with fair certainty, the most common cricket in the Garden.: the Restless Bush Cricket.

Jim Lewis was watching a large funnel spider lurking in its dense web at a fence right in front of our moth-observing set-up. Suddenly he called out "He's got a cricket!"

We all ran over just in time to see the spider inject his prey with his paralyzing venom. [Actually, it was almost certainly a she-spider].The cricket stopped moving. It was a chilling sight--before our very eyes, murder most foul [as Macbeth would have it.]

I took the photographs above to document the violent little drama we had witnessed on our otherwise peaceful moth-watching night.

Coming soon, since I've not spared you this violent episode, the sex life of the Restless Bush Cricket, witnessed by the Central Park non-maternal Mothers after sunset on the very next day.