Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pine Cone Spiders in Massachusetts

Location of Wachusett Reservoir in relation to Boston,
Massachusetts. Click to enlarge.
I had the great opportunity in 2012 to conduct a 6-month survey of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) cone and litter spiders in the forest encircling Wachusett Reservoir in central Massachusetts, USA.  This was my first major exploration of pine cone spiders outside of Washington state.  Pine cone spider-wise, it was exciting, unexplored territory!

The Wachusett Reservoir survey was also my first effort at answering the question "Are pine cone spiders just litter spiders?" and marked the first time that I collected spiders from the litter associated with the cones that I sampled.  If you're a return reader to this blog, you may have already read about my 2013 collecting excursion to eastern Washington, which was also conducted with this question in mind.  Readers can find links to those 2013 Washington posts on my Field Days Timeline page.

Map via Mass. Dept.
Conservation & Recreation
Over 70% of Wachusett Reservoir's 74,800 acre (30,270 hectare) watershed consists of undeveloped forest.  In the 40 years following completion of the dam and reservoir in 1902, government agencies planted 4.5 million trees to reforest the previously extensively cleared watershed.  Eastern white pine, naturally occurring in the region, was the most common species planted (58%).  My sampling sites were located in the forest immediately bordering the reservoir.  This forest was dominated by eastern white pine and various species of oak (Quercus sp.) and maple (Acer sp.).

Approximately weekly between May 21 and October 13 I sampled cones and litter from at least one location around the reservoir (Map 1).  Stay tuned for accounts of those collecting trips!

Map 1. Location of 2012 Pinus strobus fallen cone and litter sampling sites in Massachusetts

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