It’s amazing what you see sometimes as you travel through your own backyard. I spied this female Araneus diadematus some days ago. She is really quite a big individual and had made a large orbweb stretched between a plant pot and some shrubbery. Here she has a good meal ready to go in the shape of a Hawthorn Shieldbug .. in fact, to my crazy mind, she looks like a band member ready to knock out a tune on it.
The next day, on the late afternoon, I spotted the handsome male Araneus diadematus apparenty repairing and tidying her web for her at a distance. But he had also spun a strong silken quick release safety line … more on that later.
In the above image we can see how large the female is compared to the male. She looks rather intimidating … and she is. I watched as the male Araneus diadematus tentatively approached her along the web, getting a little closer, the female closing the gap … and the male backing off from time to time keeping a little distance between them. He was testing the waters, and so he should. Female Araneus diadematus practices sexual cannibalism before and after insemination. One thing in his favour is the large food package she already has nicely wrapped up … but he certainly didn’t want to be seconds.
Eventually they closed the gap but he was still very sheepish and kept darting back … and on a couple of occasions when he must have read the situation as potentially dangerous rather than amorous he used his pre-made quick release safety line to swing back a good distance out of harms way. They must have been playing this cat and mouse courtship game for a couple of hours … and I don’t know what the outcome was in the end for the male. The next day had seen overnight rain which had damaged some of the web, but the female was found sheltering under a leaf. The male was nowhere to be seen. He was either inside her as last nights late supper … or he had gone off in search of another mate with an extra swagger to his gait.
Sexual cannibalism in spiders is a long-standing evolutionary paradox because it persists despite extreme costs for the victim, usually the male. Several adaptive and nonadaptive hypotheses have been proposed to explain this phenomenon, but empirical studies are still scarce and results are inconclusive.
At 1 mm (3/64 in) or less in length these small mites called Euzetes globulus are hard enough to focus on and photograph, but you add in that they are always on the move it multiplies the challenge. Thankfully these are slow movers compared to other mites, which give you half a chance at least, but you still have to take many photos until you get one or two which gets close to hitting a sweet spot.
This is a face on shot with its shiny protective ‘crash helmet’, which are what I like to call them with a distinctive front rim. Like all arachnids, these have eight legs in total.
This strange, tiny mite is around 1 mm long and goes by the name of Euzetes globulus. I spotted this one feeding on the underside of a piece of loose bark. It appears to be wearing a crash helmet with a fancy pale trim. I experimented by reversing a Nikon 18-55 mm to get this shot, and you can get real close to the subject, but it can be quite the challenge to focus and is a bit hit and miss with the results.
You get a peak under the hood with this one, and can see just how reflective their ‘helmets’ can be. I used a new Raynox conversion lens mounted on my Sigma 105 mm macro lens for this shot and the one below. The Raynox MSN-202 super macro conversion lens gets you up closer than the Raynox DCR 250, and is more preferrable than using a reverse mounted lens.
This one stopped for a bite to eat, and the eyes appear red. It appears to have many horns. Stange beasts indeed, and I am glad they only come in one size! But apparently they play an important role in soil biodiversity, and feed on fungi.
This is another new species for the garden, and they all appear to like my shed wall for some reason. This is a lovely female.
A long-legged harvestman with an indistinct and variable light gray or brown body pattern. The saddle has one or two restrictions along its length giving it a waisted, or double-waisted appearance. Males have a large spur or horn projecting from the anterior surface of the first cheliceral segment. They also tend to have long, thin pedipalps relative to those of other harvestmen and usually are blacker in colouration than the females.
Found in well vegetated areas such as gardens, brownfield sites, grassland and open woodland. Seen on walls and vegetation.
This caused some excitement the other day in the Harvestmen group I am a part of. Note that the ‘A’ at the end in the title is not a typo, but is there because scientists have yet to name it! It was first discovered in Europe in the Netherlands back in 2004, and then in the UK in Worksop, Nottinghamshire in 2009. There are a few scattered records as this non-native species extends its range. Despite rigorous searches, its point of origin in the world has yet to be determined.
It has extremely long legs, up to 100 mm (4 in) in length, and an unusual dark metallic green sheen of the dorsal surface, especially in the male. It can form large congregations on shaded areas of walls of buildings which can be counted in their hundreds. Associated with stony ground, and found around buildings like houses and on brownfield sites and old industrial land.
Rabbit Hutch Spider (Steatoda bipunctata) – The first image has a kind of creepy smiley doll face. Commonly found near or in human habitation such as outbuildings or sheds, and probably rabbit hutches.
Odiellus spinosus – Its been a good year for harvestmen, and I have seen quite a few different species around, but I haven’t seen this one in the garden for some years now. This one has 3 distinct horns of similar length which, together, is called a ‘trident’, and has a dark oulined ‘saddle’ on its abdomen which ends short, combined these are diagnostic features. Notably it has short to medium legs compared to other species of harvestmen. A fierce hunter which prays on other invertebrates, and is found around human habitation like outbuidlings, gardens and houses.
I am sure it thought that if it couldn’t see me I couldn’t see it. Its larger frontal eyes are tucked under the moss. It seems to have been a very good year for these. More of them around, and larger, too, so getting a good diet.
Enoplognatha ovata – This spider comes in 3 flavors … well not quite flavours but forms or ‘morphs’. Not quite faces either, but opisthosomas or abdomens. Form lineata is creamy-yellow with black dots, form redimita is also creamy-yellow but with two broad red stripes and lines of black dots, and finally form ovata has a single broad red band and black spots. Sometimes the black dots may be abscent in all forms. After mating the female folds a leaf, usually bramble or nettle, and deposits a single egg sac inside and guards it. In my green recyling bin, where I tend to find them, they deposit the egg sac in a corner. With the lid down I suppose it offers some protection.
Life can be downright strange at times, full of odd coincidences and weird synchronicities. Well early this morning I was revamping one of my spider pages on this site which happened to be Platnickina tincta, and then a couple of hours later there was a knock on the door and a delivery driver with a parcel in his hand was stood before me. I thought, Have I ordered anything from Amazon recently?I don’t think I have? Then I started thinking he got the wrong address, but my name and address was on the label. My mind racing a bit, still wondering whether I had ordered anything, or ordered anything by mistake, because there is no signing anymore due to Covid-19, the guy placed the parcel on my door threshold and photographed it as evidence of delivery. Anyway, I opened the parcel and low and behold it was a book on spiders which I hadn’t ordered? Then the penny finally dropped! It was the second edition of Britain’s Spiders, a comprehensive revised guide covering all of Brtain’s 38 spider families, 404 species, with over 900 photos. And one of my photos was in there, after one of the authors, a professor, contacted me through this blog back in May, asking for permission to use it, and this was a complimentary copy. And you may have guessed it already, but the spider in question was Platnickina tincta which I took back in 2018. This is the 2nd time I have had one of my photos printed in a book, so you can imagine how excited I am 🙂
I always have these in the sheds, and garage, and they will also appear in the house. I leave them be in the sheds beacause they are not hurting anyone there or causing any bother, but in the house they have to go outside. If you do see one of these and get too close to it whilst it is dangling upside down in its web it will vibrate quite madly, a way of confusing and putting off predators. It is non-native to Britain, most likely arriving here in imported goods, but it has now become well-established over the past 30 odd years.
Dicranopalpus ramosus agg. This one was all stretched out on my shed wall waiting for a snack to land in its lap. It was a crafty devil as it made its place near a light source waiting for night fliers which might be attracted to it. This is not a spider, but a harvesmen, and no, it does not bring in the crops end of season. It has one leg missing, it is a female, and is a fierce hunter which prays on other invertebrates. Note the excessively long, forked pedipalps pointing forwards. You can see them from now until October, resting on low vegetation, walls and fences.
Steatoda nobilis – A first for me, and discovered in my bathroom, and narrowly avoided a toothbrush been hurled at it in the early hours by a startled family member. A distant cousin of the Black Widow, this is the largest of the 3 false widow spiders found in Britain, and the most notorious. This is the only non-native species of Steatoda, which was originally from the Canary Islands and Madeira, and it was first recorded in Torquay, Devon, in 1879. It is believed to have been imported with bananas, and it established a stronghold in the South West, particularly Devon. However in recent years Britain’s warmer climate has meant the spider has survived the winter in larger numbers, and it has been able to breed and spread northwards.
Seen throughout the year, and strongly synanthropic (living closely with human beings) it is most commonly found in and around commercial premises, including conservatories, public toilet blocks, garages and sheds, and in peoples homes.
Over the years the Noble Black Widow has suffered hyped and inaccurate media claims and became notorious as a ‘killer spider’ causing harmful bites to humans. Although it can bite, it is usually in response to a threat, and it would be no different from a bee or wasp sting for the average person. That is not to say that some people may suffer an allergic reaction to a bite, or it may become infected. The false widow is one of only a dozen breeds of spider in Britain with powerful enough jaws and strong enough venom to pierce human skin and cause a reaction. The chance of a spider bite in Britain is very much less than a bee-sting or wasp-sting – or even of a dog bite – and the consequences are generally less severe. To note, no one has ever died of any kind of spider bite in the UK and the number of reported bites from spiders in general is minimal.
So if you do happen to see one on your bathroom floor, place a small plastic pot over it to contain it, slip a piece of cardboard underneath, and kindly evict it to the outside world.
WordPress have recently added a landing page when clicking on an image, so to view enlarged, click back off the landing page, click again, and another click will get you even closer if you are feeling brave today.
To note, after querying this with WordPress and how it may affect photographers and artists, or anybody with an image focused blog, the boffins are looking at ways of adding a zoom when in the landing page area to save on all that finger clicking.
Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus) – Opening up the garden shed and entering one morning I encountered this on one of my garden seat cushions I store in there. A Zebra Spider with quite a catch. It is a Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella), quite a bit larger than the spider, yet taken down. It was probably literally pounced upon, as these are known as jumping spiders, and they do not use webs to catch their prey.
Aceria macrorhyncha – You may have noticed these little bright red pustules on the upper surface tree leaves and wondered what they were? These are plant galls, and this one in particular is caused by a tiny mite ( they belong to the same group as spiders) which feed on the leaves of Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). The mites are small enough to pierce and feed on individual plant cells, causing the surrounding cells to enlarge and multiply to form the gall. In the final image you can see the holes on the underside of the leaf, beneath the galls. Not sure what the red jelly-like stuff is. Double-click images for a closer look-see.
Daddy Long-legs Spider (Pholcus phalangioides) – These have been regular tenants in my sheds and garage (they are evicted from the house on sight) for as long as I remember. I think they are one of the strangest of spiders around. If you disturb them in their web they go crazy and shake and wobble all over the place. Double-click image if you really wanna get closer.
Araniella cucurbitina sensu lato – One of the more colourful spiders with a delightful common name. They are only small. You can tell how big it is by the fragment of moss it is clinging to in the top image whilst it is pretending to be ‘Super Spider’. Double-click images to enlarge.
Trochosa terricola – This male with his darkened front legs was attracted to the light of my moth trap. It is a species I have not seen in the garden before. If you want to learn more about this spider please click on the link below. Double-click images to enlarge.
Pirata piraticus – This is a small juvenile, and an exciting new find for me. They live on the water’s edge, and can walk and hunt on the water with water repellent legs. If you want to learn more about this spider please click on the link below. Double-click images to enlarge.
Goldenrod Spider (Misumena vatia) – I see the female plenty of times around the garden, but hardly ever the male. This one must have been real hungry perched on the edge of a petal trying to grab passing flies.
Pseudeuophrys lanigera – Me and Mike Powell (you should really go and check out his fabulous blog ‘My Journey Through Photography’ right now!) We know some folk get a little creeped out by these things … but who could fail to be moved by the cute little puppy dog eyes on this very small jumping spider? Double-click images if you really want to.
Araneus diadematus – This was a relatively small Garden Spider which was hanging around on a fence panel at the bottom of the garden. I am always taken by the intricacy of their webs, but it looks like this one has had one or two problems. Double-click image for a closer look.
Wolf Spider (Pardosa sp) female with spiderlings. They always like to warm themselves on my decking. Now you know want I’m going say next, don’t you? It’s about double-clicking … if you wanna get closer … but you don’t have to … maybe this is close enough?
Copyright: Peter Hillman Camera used: Nikon D7200 Date taken: 16th June 2019 Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire
This is but a small plant pot, and I know you may think this odd, but I just grow a clump of moss in it all year round and nothing more. It appears to attract some varied wildlife (especially if you lift it up and look underneath it) and this Philodromussp. crab spider was one of them. I spotted it yesterday whilst working the garden, and it appeared to be in a bit of a state of confusion, poor thing, as it kept going round and around the top edge of the pot.
I was photographing another species of spider on a plant pot (a lot seems to happen on this plant pot for some reason?) and this one came along. I think it is a young Clubiona sp. and it was so small it was getting lost amongst the moss leaves.
The darn thing would not keep still hence it is not as sharp as I would like.
I initially found this gloriously decorated beetle called the Common Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus vespilloides) on my kitchen windowcill. You may notice it has a couple of passengers hitching a ride on its pronotum. These are Poecilochirus mites which don’t actually harm the beetle, but grab a ride to the next burial site. These beetles have an important role of getting rid of carrion by burying beneath them for their larvae to feed. The cheeky hitchhiking mites hop off when the beetle has found a new carcass, and the mites then breed themselves, their timing so perfect that when the adult beetles are ready to fly the new generation of mites hitch a ride with them in search of another dead animal.
Feel free to click on the images to enlarge and click again to get even closer …