Breakfast, Wrapped And Ready To Go
Early morning, the sun has risen beaming down autumn sunrays, and above the sound of twittering birds in the garden I hear a high-pitched buzzing … it may as well have been a scream …
I could not see the source of the sound at first, but then I saw this large Garden Spider dangling in its web, and the source of the high-pitched buzzing …
What appeared to be a hoverfly caught and being wrapped up tight in a silken package.
The buzzing ceased, the monstrous spider wrapping in a frenzy, but a carefully and calculated frenzy, spewing its fine silken wrap to fully encapsulate its paralysed prey.
When satisfied all was wrapped up good and tight, it carted its bound package up its finely woven web, to foliage where it could feed until full.
Photographs of Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), taken October 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
In these photographs you can see how this crab spider has anchored itself to the surface with silk to secure itself.
Photograph of Goldenrod Spider (Misumena vatia) taken October 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens. ISO 100. f/9. 1/200 sec.
A Deady Game of Survival
I guess the fight for survival could have gone either way in the above image. I came across this Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) in its orb web with a nicely wrapped up food parcel. This food parcel was a social wasp, most likely the Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris), and if it had got a sting in it could have been over for the spider. I suppose it all depends on how wrapped up the wasp had become in the web, and how weak it was. Either way, the spider got its lunch.
Photograph of Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) with the Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris), taken August 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens with softbox flash diffuser.
Nursery Web Spider
A variable spider, with either bold markings or they may be abscent. The colour ranges from grey to yellowish, to dark brown. Males are similar to females, but they have slighly smaller abdomens which is quite clearly marked. Body length up to 15mm.
The females make tent-like nursery webs just before the spiderlings hatch which she guards. She also carries the eggs in a ball beneath her body which she holds in her jaws. Spiders of this family do not construct webs to catch their food but hunt their prey on the ground, or on the surface of still water. They feed on insects and other invertebrates.
The adults are seen June to August. Found in grassland, heathland, and woodland clearings. The adults enjoy basking in the sun. Common and widespread throughout.
Nursery Spiders are known for their unusual courtship behaviour, in which the female requires a present from the male before mating, an insect wrapped in silk.
Photographs of Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis) taken March and May 2014, found in rear garden and near a local pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
I come across this usually in the garden, but sometimes in the house as well. A brownish, furry hunting spider with silvery abdominal hairs, and moves in a similar manner to a mouse. Body length up to 12mm.
It is a nocturnal hunter of invertebrates.
Seen throughout the year, but mainly in the summer and autumn months Found in and around houses, garages, sheds, and other outbuildings. Common and widespread throughout the UK.
Photographs of Mouse Spider (Scotophaeus blackwalli) taken July 2014, found in house, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
A Zebra In The Back Garden
These small jumping spiders are quite distinctive with their black or dark brown and white stripe markings, hence their vernacular name of ‘Zebra Spider’. The males and females have slightly differing patterning. The females can grow up to 7mm long, the males up to 6mm.
They feed on aphids and other small invertebrates.
They reach maturity in the summer. This is one of the most commonly seen of the jumping spiders, and maybe observed on walls, fences and even outbuilding doors in bright sunshine gathering warmth, and whilst hunting. They are common and widespread throughout Great Britain.
Photographs taken May and June 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire.
Males and females are alike, except males have smaller abdomens. There is a fair variation in body colour, with some being pale yellow to brown, and others being almost black. The white cross-shaped, dotted markings are usually quite distinct., which lead it to be sometimes called the ‘Cross Spider’. The legs are light and dark banded. Body length females up to 18mm, males up to 8mm.
Garden Spiders are from a family of spiders called Orb Web Spiders, of which they have most distinctive vertical and circular webs. They have a central hub with radiating lines and spirals of sticky and non-sticky silk. The spider normally sits in the centre of the web waiting to catch its prey. It feeds on flies and other winged insects which may fly into their webs.
They mature summer to autumn, but are most often seen in autumnal months within their webs suspended and glistening like tiny beads of pearls in the early morning dew. Found in bushes and other vegetation in woodland, heathland, and gardens. They are common and widespread.
Photographs taken September 2012 (male and females), July and August 2015 (females), front and rear gardens, Staffordshire.
Just Hanging Around
You may have met this character before in a previous post of mine. His name is Daddy Long-legs Spider (Pholcus phalangioides). He is always in the same spot in my garage, hanging upside down at the base of the wall by the side door. He has chosen his spot well, for the ants have found a way in here, too, and the clever one here intercepts them on their path, picking them off when he fancies a snack.
For more information on this spider please visit the previous post Something Alien.
Daddy Long-legs Spider (Pholcus phalangioides)
Whenever I see this species of spider I find the way it holds itself as it clings to a surface makes it look quite alien. I mainly find these in my garden sheds or garage, and occasionally they will venture indoors into my home.
Also called the ‘Cellar Spider’, this spider has distinctively long slender legs. The carapace and abdomen are pale greyish-brown. Body length up to 10mm in both sexes.
When they are disturbed they vibrate their bodies rapidly and become a blur to put off predators. The females carry their fairly large and visible eggs in their jaws. They predate on other insects, catching them in their sticky webs, and then grasping them with their long spindly legs.
Seen all year round. This spider is often found upside down in a loose, almost formless web in sheds, garages, and other outbuildings, houses and always indoors. They are also found in caves. Commoner in warmer climes and fairly widespread.
Photographs taken April 2007, garden shed, May 2012, on garden bin, June 2014, on rear fence, and July 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire.
The males and females look similar, and can have variable markings. Body length females 2.5-3mm, males 2-2.5mm.
They feed on small insects.
They Mature between May and July. Found amongst grass and low vegetation, on tree trunks and in or around buildings, in various habitats. Uncommon, but widespread in England.
Photographs taken June 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire.
Nurturing Mother Nature
It is always a wonder to me when I witness something special in nature which I have only read about or heard about. I knew the female Nursery Spider (Pisaura mirabilis) was a dedicated mother to her offspring, building tent-like nursery webs just before the spiderlings hatch which she guards. She also carries the eggs in a ball beneath her body which she holds in her jaws.
Photographs taken June 2016, local field margin, Staffordshire.
Candy Stripe Spider
This is quite a treat to catch sight of in my garden, but not sweet enough to eat! I usually spot them amongst flower heads or leaves where they spin small webs to snare small invertebrates.
Also called the ‘Comb-footed Spider’, this small spider comes with abdomens in three colour variations. One is pale green with black dots, another is pale with two broad red stipes and lines of black dots, and finally another is pale with a single broad red band and black spots. Body length females 4-6mm, males 3-5mm.
The female lays her eggs within a protective folded leaf held together with silk threads. It feeds on small insects.
They mature in the summer. Found in a variety of habitats on low vegetation such a bushes. Common and widespread throughout the British Isles.
Photograph taken September 2012, local field, July 2014 and June 2016, rear garden amongst plants, Staffordshire.