Friday, March 16, 2007

Trapdoor Spiderlings and Hummingbirds

Babies, babies, babies. Imagine my surprise when walking through the yard yesterday I discovered an open trapdoor spider burrow. When I looked inside I found 100 to 200 spiderlings.

Down in the burrow there were BB-sized bumps on the wall of the tunnel. When I brushed them slightly with a piece of straw, the bumps moved. A flashlight revealed the ‘bumps’ were the abdomen’s of baby trapdoor spiders.

Here is where the tale gets unusual, the trapdoor that should have been closed and protecting these young spiders had been surgically removed. It was laying intact beside the opening. There did not appear to be any obvious signs of force to open it. It’s silken hinge had just been neatly severed.

About four inches to the left was another trapdoor spider burrow of the same size tightly sealed, its resident safe behind its closed door.

Was the door to the spider nursery removed by a predator? If so, there were a lot of spiderlings that not been eaten. In fact I just checked on them, and 24 hours later, they are still clinging to the side of the tunnel, though some seem to be down lower in the tunnel, probably to escape the heat of the day.

Was their mother eaten? I don’t know. If so, will these spiderlings starve or be eaten without her protection?

Or is their mother living in the tunnel next door? Perhaps this was the nursery burrow. I have noticed that a number of larger trapdoor spider burrows seem to have an equal-sized neighbor right next door.

Perhaps these spiderlings are just big enough be introduced to the world and mom has literally opened the door for them to go. I really don’t know and haven’t been able to find anything that might explain this mystery.

I will keep an eye on them and see if they do start to head out on their own.

Meanwhile the Allen’s hummingbirds are growing. Their feathers are coming in and their beaks are beginning to elongate. (When they hatched and first week)

The spiderlings have been developing all winter, the hummingbirds will be out of the nest in weeks. Amazing what you can run across on a warm spring day.

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