Tag Archives: arachnid

Day 7: Upping the Ant-e; Las Cuevas Sends us Off in Style

Today was as crazy of a last day as we could’ve hoped for. I woke up at a luxurious 6:45 since I couldn’t do the bird tower hike with the rest of the gang because of my knee. Once they came back we ate dinner and reconvened to start picking up the camera traps we set out 4 days ago. We went along the Monkey Trail, Saffron Trail, San Pastor and 50 Hecatre plot to pick up our traps. Along the way, we saw a brown anole and a golden turtle beetle, both of which were really cool. I also saw a harvestman of the same round body species that I’ll have to look up and an unidentified species of orb weaver spider.

A Leaf Cutter Ant Queen

We came back, ate lunch, and spent a little time catching up on notebooks and listening to music on the deck. We met up with the group from Southern Mississippi to go on leaf cutter excavations, led by the one and only Scott Solomon. He led us into the Monkey Trail where we spent some time excavating the 1-year old nest. After digging around the hole for a while, we were able to see the fungus chamber and extract the fungus ball and the queen ant, which was enormous. We walked along saffron to the giant leaf cutter nest from before, where we spent a while excavating the side of the hill. The Southern Mississippi group left for dinner, but we continued excavating until we ran into the garbage disposal chamber and felt the heat from the decomposing trash they had left.

We came back, showered, and had dinner before heading to the activity we were the most excited about: checking the camera traps. Everyone tried to have low expectations, but it was obvious that we had high expectations. In the first camera traps alone, we spotted a tapir and a jaguar before coming across herds of peccaries, curassows, a 9-ringed armadillo, a coatimundi, two pumas, another jaguar, a rat, a snake, and a lot of photos of ourselves. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited flipping through photos on a screen. All of us were extremely surprised and really excited about the results that we found, even though our initial hypothesis about off-trail sights being more rich, abundant, and diverse was incorrect. After that, we worked on our blogs and packed up to prepare for saying goodbye to Las Cuevas.

Arachnids found: Orb Weaver of an unidentified species on 50-hectare plot on a web with striped legs and a green back. Large wolf spider in the leaf litter that scurried around, looked like the Allocosa family. Florida Bark Scorpion, under the stairs of the lecture room with babies on her back. Another Florida Bark Scorpion on the deck of the dorms, froze when we got close.

All Bark No Bite

Day 6: Crap Kingdom Pt 2: Urine Trouble

I woke up again at 6:15 to finish my blog from the previous day and go birding. We ate a quick breakfast and met outside to regroup before the collection of our urine samples. Before we left, we read sections of the novel Crap Kingdom, which we found in the book exchange in the lab, which was entertaining because it was so bad. We left for our hike and collected our urine samples one by one while making sure to label our samples. We saw a smoothed anole, a Gasterocanthis cancriformis (a type of orb weaver spider) and a jumping spider, all of which were chilling in the leaf litter.

Gasterocanthis cancriformis


We came back and began sorting through our samples. We used a fish net as a sieve to catch the bugs and sorted through them using microscopes to identify the morphospecies. We all separated our tasks and worked on the poster while sorting through the species. We took a quick break to play in the rain for a while before getting back to work.

We finished our poster while two new groups came in: one was from the Belikan Beer Company and the other was from University of Southern Mississippi. We finished our poster and were asked whether we wanted to present to the other college group. After deliberation, we decided to and presented for all 25 of them. Elena started the presentation with Welcome to Pee-lize so it went really well. After presenting, we went to dinner and ate beans, tortillas, and potato salad. We did our lectures with Kristen covering mammals, Chloe covering reptiles, and Sam talking about tropical diseases. We all went to the lab and headed to bed after working on blogs and notebooks.

Arachnids found: Gasterocanthis cancriformis- small white morph, found on underside of a leaf found in leaf litter of 50-hectare plot; Jumping spider- green spider, jumping around in the leaf litter of 50-hectare plot; Florida bark scorpion- large black with red/brown legs, found on deck outside lab caught in jar by Scott.

All of these were expected

Day 4: You Belong with TFBs: Taylor Swift’s World Tour Brings Her to the Chiquibul

After a slightly more restful night, I woke up at about 6:15 AM and got ready for the day. I chilled on the birding deck for a while before eating a little breakfast. The main issue with the morning was that we had to chug a ton of water to get hydrated for peeing in two vials for our leaf litter experiment. It took me an hour and three water bottles, but I eventually did it. We discussed our plans for the leaf litter pea traps and set off down the 50-hectare trail for our experiment.

We set each trap 100 feet apart on the two segments of the 50-hectare plot. Each of us handled our own pee and buried one in the floor and one tied to a tree, with a water trap next to each. On the trail we ran into a red-banded coral snake, a tailless whip scorpion (Taylor Swift Scorpion), and plenty of blue morphos. We spent the entire morning setting the traps and came back for lunch, where we had broth and rice. I’m still having trouble eating but I was able to get a more of this down.

The Infamous Taylor Swift Spider

We left at 1:20 for caving, after many warnings about how gross we were about to get. Pedro lead us through the nine chambers of the cave, which was covered in guano and mud. Inside, we saw many troglobites, bats, a few other smaller species of tailless whip scorpions, Mayan pottery, and tree roots. We came back after exploring the entire cave, we headed back, showered, and went for dinner.

After dinner, we had out lectures on butterflies and moths (Veronica), Orthoptera (Andressa) and Cave biology (Kristen) Afterwards, a lot of us headed down to the dining room to work on our notebooks and blogs before heading back to sleep.

Arachnids seen: tailless whip scorpion on log of the flagpole of 50 hectare plot that we picked up with our notebook; 2 smaller species amblypygids (unknown name) in the cave on a rock close to each other; Baby Florida bark scorpion in the cracks of the deck of Las Cuevas; Mexican Red Rump Tarantula in its burrow outside the dorms; Unknown large brown spider outside our door- Andressa caught it in a jar; Very large Florida bark scorpion inside the middle sink of the bathroom- fled into the sinkhole

All of these were pretty expected, though the scorpions and the tailless whip scorpions did kind of spring up on us.


This morning started out so promising when we saw some Scarlett Macaws. Things went downhill (and uphill and downhill and up some larger hills) from there.

Today we set up camera traps to answer our question “what is the impact of human pathways on local species composition and richness in Chiquibul Forest?” We will look specifically at roads and pathways vs. natural clearings. We had 12 camera traps to set up and we were very ambitious in how far away we wanted to put each camera from one another. Our hike lasted all day (with a short break for lunch and bandages at 3), and we hiked a total of 13.47 miles (and apparently some 120 flights of stairs according to Adrienne’s fitbit).

During the hike I saw thousands of arachnids scurrying underfoot, and one huge wolf spider (about 3 in including its legs). We also became very acquainted with our new best friend: the tick. I pulled about 5 or 6 off of myself before dinner.

Elaborate spider web along the trail.
Elaborate spider web along the trail.

During the hike, my feet started killing me around 12pm when I realized that the pads of my heels were rubbing against my sock in a weird way. I spent the rest of the hike with moleskin sweating off of me as we hiked up to our highest point of 685 meters in elevation. We saw some fabulous long wing butterflies at the bird tower observation deck, which was our highest camera trap point.

There was much sweat and pain, so I certainly hope we get something good from these camera traps. Next stop: ant experiments.

Travel and Introductions

Hi loved ones, I’m alive and well. I’m sitting in my humid sticky bedroom recounting the excitement (good and bad) of the day in my head. It started out on a pretty bad note honestly.

We got to Hobby airport and there had been a power outage resulting in no water in the entire airport: no working bathrooms, no working water fountains, and no food except what was left in the shiny cold food sections that no one ever touches, but were suddenly the bell of the ball. I bought some snacks and the largest water bottle I could find and hoped they would hold me over till dinner which was scheduled to be >6 hours later.

Once we got to Belize though, I remembered why it was that I was here. The air was humid, the houses along the road were colorful and falling apart, the bumpy 2 hour van ride let us see the countryside from Belize City to Belmopan. I loved it.

The rest of the day had its ups and downs. The van barely had air conditioning and we were all 16 of us stuffed into a van made to seat 8 semi-comfortably. When we stopped for snacks though, the day took a turn for the better. Adrienne bought me a birthday snack of a slightly disturbing tamarind flavored crazy hair pushup pop and some truly fabulous birthday sunglasses.

We learned about the forest canopy, trees, and epiphytes after a lovely dinner of chicken and rice. But after presentations was when the fun truly started. I found a spider about an inch in length including its legs. It was visibly hairy and a dark grey/black color with very few markings on its body. I didn’t get a great look at it because it was very skittish, but I got some pictures, which will hopefully (internet allowing) be attached to this post.


The most exciting part of the day by far though, was the fabulous siting of an 8 ft. boa constrictor in a tree across from the porch where we had eaten dinner. It was super active and looked to be hunting. I’m so happy that I’ve already gotten to see some fun things, and it’s been barely half a day. I’m excited for what tomorrow will bring, and also so desperately in need of sleep. Till tomorrow!