Foraging in the forest I was setting myself up to be a tick magnet and sure enough I found a tick on my jeans. Thankfully I spotted it before it got too friendly. It is the blacklegged or deer tick that carries Lyme disease and this one was lighter in colour, so it might be one of the other 40 species of ticks in Canada… but I couldn’t be sure!
Even though I looked at images of different ticks, I wasn’t able to identify what type this was. It looks to me like either an American Dog tick or a Lone Star male tick. The description of a blacklegged tick is that they are the size of a sesame seed before feeding and can be as large as a grape when they are full of blood. This was larger than a sesame seed and didn’t look full of blood. Regardless of what type it was, once the photo shoot was done, so was the tick!
The creepiest of creepy-crawly encounters was a dock spider! Dolomedes are such big spiders and can grow to be more than 9cm. They can actually bite and have large enough fangs to break the skin, but they only bite humans if threatened and their bite isn’t dangerous to humans unless there is an allergic reaction to the bite. It is the big female spiders that love docks. It is prime territory for hunting aquatic insects, minnows and tadpoles. Dock spiders are interesting if you can get past them being so eerie. They can swim and walk on water and a female will carry its egg sac in its fangs or with its front legs until the young spiders are ready to hatch. When they are ready to hatch she finds a safe place and surrounds it with a protective web while she stands guard until the baby dock spiders hatch. And yes, this is often somewhere on the dock!
I did find another spider amongst the leaf litter, while foraging in the forest.
It was a Hacklemesh Weaver spider. They like to hang out in leaf litter and other dark humid places. Whilst this much smaller spider seems less creepy, they do have a really dark side to them. After the mother has stood guard over her 60-180 eggs for 3-4 weeks, her babies hatch and cannibalize her, where they feed communally for the first month of their lives!
A tiny little spider that we saw last year was the Zebra spider, or jumping spider. These little guys don’t build webs and use their four pairs of large eyes to locate prey and pounce to capture it. They seem to have an awareness of humans observing them and will change their behaviour when this happens, as did this one as I pointed the camera at it.
Another common “spider” we have seen is the Harvestman, although it isn’t actually a spider.
Their long legs make them rather creepy and spider like, but they are totally harmless. The most disconcerting thing about them is that if you handle one, one or more of its legs might fall off. This is quite serious for a Harvestman because their second pair of legs serves as ears, nose and tongue. The Harvestman spider is also sometimes called a Daddy Longlegs.
Crane flies are too sometimes called Daddly Longlegs and also sometimes called Leatherjackets, because of their tough skin. Crane flies look more like a large mosquito than a Harvestman spider. Crane flies don’t bite and the adult crane flies do not actually feed at all. They only live for a few days, just long enough to mate and reproduce.
One last creepy crawly that I noticed on our way out is the tent caterpillars. They are back and have built a nest in roughly the same place they built last year. I will have to give it some thought as to what I am going to do about it this year. Do I leave them or not?