Saturday, April 18, 2015

9-May-2011 Wachusett Reservoir, Thomas Basin, Massachusetts

Site location
During a quick business trip to Worcester, Massachusetts I took the opportunity to tap some fallen eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) cones in their native range.  Readers will recall that just one month prior, I had tapped the fallen cones of P. strobus in Green Lake Park in Seattle, Washington, where it is an introduced species.  Little did I know on this day that I would be returning to Wachusett Reservoir one year later to conduct a 6-month survey of cone spiders there!

Sample site
Understory thick with maple saplings
My sample site was located at the edge of the pine-maple forest across the street from West Boylston's Old Stone Church on Route 140 and the reservoir's Thomas Basin.  The understory was so thick with maple saplings that I frequently got entangled in them.  Only belatedly did I realized that poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) was a major component of the groundcover.  Lucky for me, it hadn't yet leafed out and I apparently didn't bruise any buds or woody stems, because I escaped without a rash.

The fallen cone microhabitat
Since I had no net or pillow case with me, I improvised by tapping each cone with a stick over a white groundcloth.  Tapping 65 cones, I collected 6 juvenile harvestmen and 5 juvenile spiders.  One of the spiders was a Phrurotimpus sp. (Phrurolithidae), a genus I'd later find during my 2012 survey to be one of the most common in Wachusett Reservoir cones.

Five juvenile spiders from 65 cones was not exactly an earth-shattering finding, but it was enough to put Massachusetts on the World Map Of Pine Cone Spiders.

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