Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adventure Recap: Tishomingo State Park

     On April 29, I went along on the annual field trip for the Mississippi Native Plant Society. This year's trip was to one of my favorite places in the state: Tishomingo State Park in northeastern Mississippi.

     The day started early, with my alarm clock jolting my twin sister, a Horticulture Major, and myself awake at 4:00A.M. We had our bags packed for the trip in advance, and we were ready to go. We met a friend, Edward, a grad student at the college we attend, and rode together out to Dr. John Guyton's house. We loaded up in the van, which was packed with gear, and headed out on the 3+ hour trip to the park.

     On the way, we discussed plants, insects, and spiders, of course. As we rode, we noted the wildflowers along the sides of the road. I'm not much of a plant expert, so I listened intently as Sis and the others talked about the different plants. Pretty soon, though, I saw something that caught my eye. There were spider webs all along the road. Funnel webs in the style of spiders in the family Agelenidae. We stopped near a rest stop on the Natchez Trace to pick flowers for a plant talk scheduled for later that day. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the webs.

           As you can see in the picture, a few of the webs had their little occupants in them. We continued on from there to the park. We arrived before people started showing up, in order to help set up.  Dr. Kelly, who is the President of the Mississippi Native Plant Society, was there waiting on us. I was thrilled to find out that she had a present for me as soon as we got there. Waiting in a ziploc bag was a scorpion!

        Mississippi has only one species of scorpion, Vaejovis carolinianus (Beauvois) It's not a large scorpion, an inch or two in length if you include the tail. It 's not  a dangerously venomous species, either. This makes it a really neat pet. I used the scorpion to help me teach some of the people who were steadily arriving about some really neat arachnids. Using a pocket sized blacklight that I borrowed from Dr. John, I showed anyone who I could get to something that most folks had never heard of.
     When scorpions are exposed to the light from a blacklight, they flouresce. This neat reaction was a fun thing to show to the children who were there. They were all amazed by it.
      After a short time of being there, I was pegged as the "Spider Woman." I spent a while answering questions about spiders and insects of all kinds. I went along on hikes, collecting spiders as I went, and helped answer spider questions when they arose. I was no help on the plant aspect of the trip, which was the point of the field trip, but I learned a ton.

     All in all, I found eighteen different species of spiders that day. It was a fulfilling day in that respect. It was also worth every moment to see the realization that spiders aren't all bad dawn on the people I was talking to.

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