Every week or so (it’s become less frequent since I got busy with MAPS) I’ve been walking down to the bog at the back of the property to see what’s going on. I went out a couple of days ago, taking my camera in the hopes of snapping a photo of our Baltimore Checkerspots, which hang out there but which I’ve never seen anywhere else (these were ‘lifers’ when we discovered them there last summer, though I admit my butterfly life list is a little thin from lack of effort). I saw no butterflies, perhaps because it was slightly overcast, but I did discover this fabulously cool spider hanging out in a web there. I think this beats out the Black-and-yellow Argiope and the Marbled Orbweaver for Coolest Spider I’ve Seen To Date.
A quick search of the spider section in my copy of Stephen Marshall’s Insects (sadly, my much-loved Kaufman Insects offers only a cursory coverage of spiders due to space limitations) turned up the ID: this is an Acanthepeira species, likely A. stellata, the Starbellied Orbweaver, though the different Acanthepeira species can be difficult to tell apart and definitive ID often requires examination of the genitalia (makes you wonder how they can tell each other apart, then – do they go around checking out each others’ nether-regions?). The Starbellied is a widespread species, found from eastern Canada south to Florida and east to Kansas and Arizona. Like most orbweavers, it builds a stereotypical spiderweb, vertical with a spoked-wheel appearance, in sunny locations a few feet above the ground. As far as I can tell, the fact that I found it in our bog is simply coincidence, though BugGuide offers limited information on the species and Insects even less. I may have to add a good spider guide to my ever-growing list of books to buy when I win the lottery.