I’ve decided to take a big step in my life and confess something I’ve been hiding. Its something about me only a very few people know, but its getting harder and harder to conceal. My father let it slip to his friends, and now I have to make the choice to deny it or accept it. And so I choose to accept and embrace it….

Friends, family…friends of family:

I love spiders.

I do. Its true. Go ahead and wince and grimace. Murmer that I’m weird, smirk at my oddity, but there’s just no hiding it any longer. When I say I love spiders, I mean I LOVE spiders. My friends on www.spideridentification.org refer to themselves as arachnophiles. When my kids play outside, I spend most of my time on my knees in the dirt, looking under the shrubs, checking out webs near the cellar. I can’t get enough! Two months ago, I didn’t know a cellar spider from a cobweb spider. Now, I can tell you what genus is running accross your living room floor, which are dangerously venomous, which build what kind of webs. I can tell you that my carport is overrun with Steadota triangulosa but that’s okay since they are not a danger to my kids. I can tell you that not only are Black Widows abundant in Hot Springs this year, but whether they are Latrodectus mactansLatrodectus hesperus, or Latrodectus variolus. I know how to tell a mature male from a female, and how to tell if a female is gravid, or ready to lay eggs. I can even identify different types of egg sacs, webs, and trapdoors. It started out a simple inquiry on the spider identification website, as we’d been finding black widows, and I wanted to know which kind we had. Now its a full-blown obsession, and its rubbing off on Payten. I called the kids over to show them a lovely Lycosid I found, and told them, “This is a Wolf spider…probably Rabidosa. Isn’t she pretty?” Payten responded, “Well, it is a very pretty spider, but I think its a boy. See how big his pepsidalps are?” I looked, and sure enough, he had swollen pedipalps, the arm-like appendages near the mouthparts. In females, these are thin and used to manipulate prey caught in the web. Since most males never weave webs, just mooch off their female counterparts, their palps have evolved for a different purpose: reproduction. They deposit their genetic material onto a surface, absorb it into the palps, and insert it into the female’s Epigynum. Very romantic, no? Then, depending on the species, they either run away before she can retaliate or they camp out near her web and chomp on her leftovers for the rest of their lives. Very much like human males. In fact, spider males are also common to the human variety in how difficult it can be to tell a juvenile from an adult. Adult females are usually very easy to identify. Anywho, I told that story to tell this story: I wish I had a good camera so I could take some good pics of the pretty ladies who make their home around here. Lets just pretend for a moment that money isn’t an issue (I wish;) what camera would the photo takers out there recommend for a beginner who plans on taking pics of small active subjects? I am a complete novice at phot taking. The only subjects I’ve dealt with until now are my kids…also small and active, but a little more willing to pose. Any suggestions?