By Wendy Langhans
Talk about being saved by a whisker. I came this close to being ambushed last weekend at Towsley Canyon. No, it wasn’t a mountain lion. It wasn’t even an irate hiker. It was....(cue dramatic music).... a SPIDER!
Like any good ambush, the story begins in a place of presumed peace and innocence. And what could be more innocent than a wildflower. Specifically, a Tree poppy, whose butter-yellow blossoms were gently wafting in the breeze.
I was leading a wildflower walk, so of course we stopped to take a closer look. I explained how the yellow color and relatively flat landing platform made it attractive to bees. As I reached out my hand to point to pollen-laded anthers, one of our group called out a warning, “Careful! I see something moving in there.”
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He was right. There, near the center of the flower, was a small spider, about 3/8 of an inch long. It was bright yellow ! Normally, I don’t think of camoflague as bright yellow, but in this case, it worked.
It was a Goldenrod Spider (Misumena vatia ), a member of the Crab family of spiders. These spiders do not build webs. Rather, they lie in wait for an bee (or butterfly) to visit the flower. Then, KA-POW! They ambush it, grabbing the bee with their long front legs and injecting it with paralyzing venom. And the story gets even more gruesome. According to Encarta , “They do not wrap their prey in silk after biting, but instead remain with the immobilized prey until they have sucked it dry.”
Fortunately for me, their fangs are short and their venom is weak.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, March 12 - Sunday, May 29, SCV Search & Rescue Trail Challenge 2011: 12 Weeks/12 Hikes. Click here  for more information.
Saturday & Sunday, April 2 & 3, 9 AM - 5 PM, Volunteer Training at Towsley Canyon. Have you ever thought about sharing your love of the outdoors with others? Would you like to volunteer as a host in our visitor center at Towsley Canyon? Here’s your opportunity to receive basic training in ecology, visitor services, and cultural and natural history of our local area. For more information, contact Lisa Ann Carrillo at 310-858-7272 x 115.
Sunday, April 3, 1 - 3 PM, Wildflowers Galore at Towsley Canyon. Towsley Canyon is the perfect place to see this year’s flower display. Meet at the front parking lot. For directions and trail maps, click here .
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org  for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, April 6, 13, 20, 27.
Saturday mornings, March 9, 23.
For a glimpse of our local flowering plants, check out the Facebook page, “90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers ”.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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