DEAR JOAN: Will the wildlife on Mount Diablo be OK with this fire?
I so worry about them.
DEAR KENA: Life is changing for a lot of living things on the mountain.
The animal mortality rate from fire is generally pretty low except when fires are fast-moving. The fire on Mount Diablo moved pretty quickly at times so some animals may have been caught by the flames and perished. The biggest worry, however, is after the flames are out, the animals that once lived in the scorched areas may find them unsuitable for habitation. They may also have lost their regular food and water sources.
The mountain is a big one, however, and displaced animals should be able to find other habitat. Residents who live in the foothills, however, may notice more animals visiting their backyards for a while. I'd ask folks to be patient with the animals. They will eventually head back up the mountain, so don't do anything to encourage them to stick around.
If you spot a burned or injured animal, contact animal control in your area. You also can get advice from the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek at http://wildlife-museum.org.
On the other side of the coin, the fire may have done a lot of good for the mountain's landscape. The Bay Area's natural growing condition is one of growth and fire. Some native plants even require fire in order for their seeds to germinate. Fire also clears out years of undergrowth and dead brush, wiping the slate clean, in a way, for new growth.
DEAR JOAN: I have a couple spider identity questions for you.
The first is about a cute little whitish guy with little indentations on his back. He was on our front porch jade plant. I managed to get him to hop on my car key, so you can see his size.
The other is the unusual webbing all over our mock orange bush. It is a thick tarplike base with a tunnel and many vertical strands like a curtain. I blew on it hoping something would pop out of the tunnel thinking it had a catch, but no luck.
Not exactly pretty decorations on my bush, but I hate to hose them off after all that work.
Ann and Bill
DEAR ANN and BILL: The first little guy is a crab spider. You'll find many different kinds of crab spiders, but that's the generic name for it. They get their name because they look like a tiny crab.
Most of the guys are ambush spiders, meaning they don't spin webs to catch prey. They hang out and grab dinner as it passes by.
The thick blanket of webbing on your mock orange was a little more difficult to identify. I thought there was a chance it could be spider mites or tent caterpillars so I sent your pictures to a couple of experts who ruled out both.
The webs are too thick to have been produced by the tiny mites and if the tent caterpillars were to blame, you'd see the caterpillars inside the web.
We're pretty sure your webs are the work of spiders in the Agelenidae family, commonly known as grass spiders.
Grass spiders spin a sheetlike web with a tunnel off to the side, and as you noted, a sheer curtain in front. A flying insect comes too close, hits the curtain and falls into the sheet below, where the spider quickly grabs it and pulls it into the tunnel.
The spiders don't harm you or your plants, so if you can stand it, I'd leave them be at least until after Halloween. They've already decorated for you.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.