Despite the reputation that arachnids have acquired over the years, they are still worthy of a moment of your time should you come across one. At this time of year the long grass that grows in the meadows and fields around the UK provides the perfect habitat for many species of spider.
Some of you may have already seen small clusters of grass tightly bound by a web of sorts. The chances are it will have been the work of the nursery web spider Pisaura mirabilis.
This species of spider will create a dome-like cover over an egg sac in order to keep it safe until the spiderlings hatch and eventually leave the nest. You can often guarantee that a female will be close by and in some cases will be resting on the side of the web. The guarding spider can be spooked easily and may quickly hide if disturbed. So, moving quiet will increase your chances of seeing her.
A female nursery web spider carrying an egg sac
A profile image of the nursery web spider
Another spider that can be seen at this time of
year is the Labyrinth
spider Agelena labyrinthica. This
spider can be identified by the large web carpet that it creates amongst the
grass. The web carpet acts as a large catchment area for the spider’s prey.
While the spider waits for an unsuspecting insect to cross its web, it will lie
and wait in a silk tunnel at the rear of the web. It will then quickly run out
and grab its victim before retreating to the confines of it’s silk tunnel to
feast on its prey.
My interest with spiders came about when I started photographing in the fields near home. It made me realize how many varieties there are and how they all catch their prey in different ways. Each one has a set of features that enables it to survive in different habitats. I would like to share some of my findings close to home.
The beauty of nature is that it can be found almost anywhere. A great place to start is on the side of your own home. Where there are insects you will find spiders. The sun-warmed surfaces of a building provide a great habitat for the insects attracted to the warmth.
This jumping spider was found, resting in a hollow in the wall, consuming an aphid.
A nursery web spider basking in the warmth of the sun-covered brick.
Commonly know as a jumping
spider (Salticus scenicus), this type
of spider has exceptionally good eyesight. It will stalk it’s prey to the point
where it can eventually leap onto it.
This jumping spider had caught a fly. You can see the large front facing eyes which give this spider the added advantage for hunting its prey. Fully grown, this spider only reaches a size 5-7mm.
Small holes and cavities provide shelter for
these small spiders. So, old buildings can be especially good for spotting
lace weaver spiders can be found in abundance on buildings. The best time to
see this species is at night. Go out with a torch and see if you can find some.
Their eyes twinkle as the light passes over them.
Finding some spiders in long grass can be
difficult if they don’t have a visible web. If you know what to look for then
you can increase your chances of success. Small balls of grass such as this one
In this image you can see how difficult it is to notice the spider holding onto the grass in the lower left part of the image.
The spider fastens together multiple pieces of grass and seeds with its silk. This creates a shelter which the spider can blend into. From above, the spider is not visible to predators, so the best way to view this spider is from underneath, where it spends most of its time.
One of the best finds I’ve come across was
whilst walking in my local area – it was garden spiders, Araneidae diadematus, in their juvenile state. The very simple web
held two pieces of grass together in an arch form to make a sturdy support for
the spiderlings. The ball formation you see in the one picture is referred to
as a nursery cluster. The slightest disturbance and the cluster will break
apart as the spiderlings disperse rapidly.
I noticed this house spider had made its home in
one of the holes on the railway bridge at Sandwell Valley.
Sometimes you will come across interesting things when you least expect it. This is a green crab spider that I found on the side of my car. It’s the first of the species that I had seen. Luckily I had my camera phone to document it. The green crab spider is one the most vibrant spiders. It’s thin translucent body allows it to glow in the harsh sunlight, emphasising its amazing colouration.