I recently found some interesting species while doing field surveys in South Texas. At one location we were in a partially dried up stream bed. I was poking around waiting to get started on the survey when I spotted a shiny black spider in a messy web. The spider was a beautiful adult female southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans). I’m pretty sure there was at least one of her spiderlings in the web with her too. Black widow spiderlings are a translucent brown with no distinct hourglass marking. On the way back through the stream not 3 feet from the widow’s web I spotted a western ribbon snake (Thamnophis proximus ssp.). It was most likely an intergradation between the arid land ribbon snake (Thamnophis proximus diabolicximus) and the Gulf Coast ribbon snake (Thamnophis proximus orarius). Making it Thamnophis proximus diabolicus x T. p. orarius. Gotta love us crazy scientists and our latin species names.
A few weeks later I spotted another black widow. This time it was in a web strung across some herbaceous plants about 8-10 inches off the ground. She was feeding on what looked like a wasp. Thankfully I spotted her about 1.5 feet away and managed not to disrupt her dinner by walking into her web. So make sure you keep an eye out for shiny black spiders with bright red hourglass on their bellies while your out hiking and herping this summer.