I work at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and we have a pretty big physical footprint on the lakeshore here. However, only a fraction of that is planted with native Illinois plants – a little circular area just north of the large totem pole we have.
My colleague and I were walking around yesterday to scout out some potential programming spots, and while passing through aforementioned only native garden, we saw this:
Which upon closer inspection turned out to be this:
Which, if you can’t tell, is somewhere between the size of my face and the size of my nightmares (scientifically speaking). We only saw it because it was in the process of capturing that grasshopper there and it was moving FAST. I got this video of the end of that process – you can see the grasshopper shake a little, but it’s all over for it.
The Museum produces an awesome group of free field guides called “Rapid Color Guides” and they’re perfect for quick ID of stuff just like this. I learned from our RCG on “Common Spiders of the Chicago Region” that this is most likely a banded argiope (Argiope trifasciata) although the booty shape is a little different between the picture in the guide and my picture.
Regardless, I’ve never seen this beautiful critter before, and – unscientifically – I can’t help but think if our campus ONLY had non-native landscaping, I NEVER would have seen it here. Just this small patch of native plants is noisier and more carbonated with life than any other part of grounds. Obviously a spider the size of my nightmares needs a fair amount of food to stay that big, and that diet might only be bolstered by the quantity of meals who call the native plants of our region home.
Not that you need convincing. YOU know how great this stuff is.