Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Posts tagged “Spider

Spider Behaviour

Male Spider Tetragnatha extensa cocooning prey in web

There’s been a bit of a gap since the last post – maybe a sign of a good Summer?

Delicate touch - Spider Tetragnatha extensa on web in flowers

Delicate touch – Spider Tetragnatha extensa on web in flowers

Those of you squeamish about Arachnids should maybe wait a bit longer – this is the second part of a Spider feature, dealing more with behaviour.  The previous post can be found here –  Spiders in Ireland.

The first thing we think of regarding spiders is Webs.  Apart from having 8 legs and numerous eyes, this is a very defining deature.  The first picture shows the delicte, sure touch of the spider as well as the strength of the silk lines it weaves.

Spider's Web in frost

Spider’s Web in frost

Raindrops on tiny web

Raindrops on tiny web

Sometimes webs are hard to see – they are used to trap flies afterall – but frost, rain and morning dew makes them very visible.

Then the brilliant structures and their number, can be admired by all.

Dew-covered Webs on bush

Dew-covered Webs on bush

Garden spider - Araneus diadematus underside showing spinners

Female Garden spider – Araneus diadematus underside showing spinners

Spiders have spinners under their rear (see picture and also Garden Spider showing spinners), from where tough silk emerges quite rapidly.

In fact spiders can produce different grades of fibres for different uses – web, temporary scaffold for making web, wrapping prey, cocoons etc – and use different glues.
Garden Spider in web - waiting, feeling

Male Garden Spider in web – waiting, feeling

Spider Meta segmentata female dragging cranefly in web

Spider Meta segmentata female dragging cranefly in web

Spiders wait quietly and still on their webs  with their legs on a number of lines, or at the edge of a web, perhaps under a leaf, but touching a main line, waiting for vibrattions that tell them some prey is struggling with the sticky web.  However spiders themselves are able to traverse the web very quickly.  This seems to be due to a number of factors:-

  1. spiders know where the sticky strands are
  2. spiders have an oily substance on their legs which resists sticking
  3. they walk in a way that minimises the contact between the glue drops and the tiny hairs on their legs and
  4. they have a third claw that seems to work with the flexible hairs to grasp the thread and release it!
Fly caught by spider- linyphiidae

Fly caught by spider- linyphiidae

Prey stuck in a web, is usually doomed unless large and powerful enough to free itself. The resident spider usually approaches quite quickly and ends the struggle with a poisonous bite.

Male Spider Tetragnatha extensa cocooning prey in web

Male Spider Tetragnatha extensa cocooning prey in web

Generally the spider then cocoons its prey using more sticky silk thread – dinner for later.

 

Although it seems out of character, some spiders do not build webs.  Hunter spiders (Hunter Spider), for example, use speed to grab and bite their prey.

 

Spider in web Lough Dan

Spider in web Lough Dan

Another use for spider silk is to make funnels and nests.

Wolf Spider with egg sac

Wolf Spider with egg sac

Spider Tetragnatha extensa on stem

Spider Tetragnatha extensa on stem

Finally, spider silk is used to make a sac to carry its eggs.

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Spiders are good at hiding, whether it is in the shadow under leaves or in the open, staying still.

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This is aided by aligning their legs with the foliage …

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or by looking un-spider-like and staying still.

Harvestman on house wall

Harvestman on house wall


Spiders in Ireland

If you hate spiders, you should go to a different post – quickly.
House Spider Tegenaria domestica malr on Floor

House Spider Tegenaria domestica male on Floor

In fact this head-on view although fairly scary in its own right (it must be really terrifying for small insects) is not easily seen normally. No, its the long view of the dark body and melee of legs that seems to set off some people. I think we all have some degree of built in aversion to spiders, which probably goes back to when we shared caves with them!  The fear is certainly quite common.
House Spider Tegenaria domestica Male in bath

House Spider Tegenaria domestica male in bath

Most spiders bite and most are venemous.  However it is unusual for spiders to bite humans and many have mouth parts too small or weak to bite us.  Also, in this part of the world, very few bites cause more than irritation.
Occasionally bites can cause a bad reaction as can happen with wasp bites or scratches from pets.
In this first post on Spiders, we’ll mainly look at some fairly common spiders in Ireland.

Let’s start with the common house spider which is quite large (to 100mm but body only up to 20 mm) and dull brown. It probably doesn’t look too appealing and can seem very dark in poor light or corners.  This spider is often seen in sinks and baths where the poor creatures find it difficult to scale the slippy ceramic walls.   It performs the useful function in the house of catching flies and other insects.  It is also responsible for many cobwebs in corners of ceilings, windows and doorways.

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus underside on Web Wicklow

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus underside on Web Wicklow

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Outside a common spider is the Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus).  This is often seen in hanging webs.

It is also brown but tends to be more strikingly marked and looks fatter than the house spider.

Females – usually the larger sex – can be  up to 20 mm in body but the legs are a bit shorter than those of the house spider.

Spider Meta segmentata male under Sedum flower head

Spider Meta segmentata male under Sedum flower head

.This shot shows the characteristic 8 legs and the spinerets at the rear of the underside.

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Quite a slimmer and ‘prettier spider is Meta segmentata.

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Spider Tetragnatha extensa on stem Inniscrone

Spider Tetragnatha extensa on stem Inniscrone

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Another slim spider is Tetragnatha extensa which is often seen ‘extensa’ing along grass stems in fields.

It can be quite hard to spot.

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Small Spider Enoplognatha ovata under leaf in garden

Small Spider Enoplognatha ovata under leaf in garden

Many spiders are difficult to see either because of their size or their skulking habits.

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Enoplongnatha ovata is bright but quite small and hides here under a leaf.

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Spider Neriene pelata female on bathroom mat

Spider Neriene pelata female on bathroom mat

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Back inside, a few other spiders can be found.

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This dark headed lady looks a bit dodgy on the bathroom floor.

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Spider Bathyphantes parvulus F perhaps Bedroom

Spider Bathyphantes parvulus F perhaps Bedroom

Spider Amaurobius similis on brush in kitchen

Spider Amaurobius similis on brush in kitchen

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Daddy-long-legs Spider on house wall

Daddy-long-legs Spider on house wall

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While this grey and quite foreign looking specimen appeared in our bedroom.

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Hunting or Jumping Spider Salticus scenicus Zebra spider perhaps in Cabin R Erne

Hunting or Jumping Spider Salticus scenicus Zebra spider perhaps in Cabin river Erne

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Next time you are using your brush on the kitchen pots, just check it…

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The garden, house walls and sheds usually hold a good number of spiders and a wide variety.

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The Daddy-long-legs spider, like its insect namesake, has long ungainly legs.

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This one has a limb missing.

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A dark, handsome and perhaps, menacing spider, was found in a cabin of a boat on the river Erne.

I think it is one of the Jumping spiders in the Salticidae family.

Money Spider Drapetisca socialis on house wall

Money Spider Drapetisca socialis on house wall

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Many spiders are called Money Spiders.  It is a term mainly used for those in the Linyphiidae family which contains mainly small spiders.

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Spider Araniella curcubitina on wood

Spider Araniella curcubitina on wood

Spider Pisaura mirabilis on garden wall

Spider Pisaura mirabilis on garden wall

There are a large number of very small spiders, many dull and unseen, but some are quite flashy.

 

Hunter spiders tend to be larger and stronger.

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They are often found in gardens.

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False Widow Spider Steatoda nobilis on outside pipes on N Dublin house

False Widow Spider Steatoda nobilis on outside pipes on N Dublin house

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Finally a spider in the news recently, often with some media hysteria, is the False Widow.  Ireland now has 3 of these spiders from the Steatoda genus that are a bit Widow like.  The one recently arrived and causing the fuss, is Steatoda nobilis or Noble False Widow.  .

The responsible information coming out is that it can bite and can cause a bit of discomfort but unless you get a bad reaction, it should be no worse than a wasp sting.

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Spiders can be difficult to identify and I am no expert.  Some need to be examined by microscope and the markings can vary quite a lot!  So if any of the labels are wrong, let me first offer the Bart Simpson defence –

I Didn’t Do It, Nobody Saw Me Do It, There’s No Way You Can Prove Anything!;

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Second, please let me know.


Baltimore and Cork Area – Review of 2010 – October

October

Enjoyed Magners New Lansdowne Rd Stadium - Leinster Vs Munster, Magners LeagueLeague Rugby at the new Lansdowne Rd. – Leinster Vs Munster – proper rugby!

The stadium seating is very steep so that you are really looking down on the players, especially if youy are in row zzz!  Actually some of the roof supports get in the way a bit up there but its still pretty good and has a much better atmosphere than Croker.

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Grey Seal on Liffey Walk Bridge, Dublin ,

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In Dublin, a Grey Seal had taken to lying on the water-calming floats of the walk bridge over the Liffey.

Many passer-bys were confronted by wildlife without having to go anywhere!

He (or she) seemed to be quite happy and non-chalent lying on the rounded floats – I don’t know how he (or she) stayed above water!

Spider, Tetragnatha extensa (Male), cocooning prey in web in back garden.

Incidentally, how come the floats are still broken?  How come they broke so soon on what was supposed to be a great piece of engineering?  And why aren’t the builders / designers fixing them for free?

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In the garden, spiders were busy.  This one on its web between thistles, was cocooning its prey.

This is a reasobable sized spider – a Tetragnatha extensa, I suspect – but compare its size with the tiny spider with an even tinier fly, in between the ‘bristles’ atop the nearby thistle head!

Spider, Xysticus cristatus, Female, with prey on Thistle head back gardenThere really does seem to be a place for everybody!

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Castlehaven Bay area from Reen Pier
Castlehaven Bay area from Reen Pier

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Near the end of October we took a short trip to Cork centred on Baltimore.

Rosscarbery Bay & Little Island Strand, Owenahinchy, Co. Cork
Rosscarbery Bay & Little Island Strand, Owenahinchy, Co. Cork

This is a beautiful part of Ireland that rewards visitors with a wide range of scenery, from wild coasts to long sandy beaches, calm bays and fast mountain streams.

Oystercatcher amongst mussels near Baltimore Cork.

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We didn’t see anythig special in the bird line – perhaps the scenery was too good!  But there were plenty of the usual suspects such as Oystercatvhers – shown here amongst the mussels – and Black-tailed Godwits.

Black_tailed Godwit resting, Kinsale Harbour, Commoge.

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Seafari rib. Baltimore Harbour, Cork.

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We had intended to get over to Cape Clear but never did!  Will have to go back soon.

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Instead we took a sea tour in a rib which was great. Apart from being enjoyable in its own right as a sort of offshore Disney ride, the scenery was completely different from offshore and there was lots of wildlife to see.

.Common Dolphin jumping, off Cape Cllear Island and Baltimore coast

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The skipper expected to see Whales at this time of year but apparently they hadn’t come inshore as much yet that year.

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We did see Seals, Gannets and quite a few Dolphin schools – don’t know what they were learning but they seemed to be enjoying it!

Black-headed Gull living dangerously, Dirk Bay, Co.Cork
Every day do one thing that frightens you … like this Gull!

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The region is well worth a visit or two.  Apart from the birds, animals and flora that you just have to see, the terrain (and sea) is wild like it’s meant to be with sharp rugged cliffs and strong breaking waves.

Fishing boat leaving Sherkin Island and Baltimore Harbour mouth at Sunset from Beacon
Fishing boat leaving Sherkin Island and Baltimore Harbour mouth at Sunset

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Best of all after a tiring day exploring you can enjoy good food spectacular sunsets and maybe a glass of wine.


Wicklow Way, Kilmore Quay – Spiders and Insects – Review of 2010 – August

August

Wicklow SW and Lough Dan from Wicklow WayWicklow is known as the Garden County.  Some garden!

Brilliant scenery, great walks, and full of wildlife, this is my extended home!

Amazingly it is close to around 2 million people and yet remains mainly wild.

Perhaps we should keep it secret.

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The wicklow way winds its way across the mountains with railway sleepers in places making the going easier.  There are great wild flowers to be found.

Wild Flower mix road side Blessington.

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At home in Blessington, someone grew ‘wild’ flowers in a rough patch beside the road.

Perhaps not truly wild but they were colourful and probably beneficial to other wildlife.

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.Cross Spider on home wall

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Birds were still around but they tend to go a bit quiet in August.

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Insects and bugs on the other hand, seem to be everywhere,

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‘Evil’ spiders were commonplace, this one paler than usual on the wall of our house.

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On a short visit to Kilmore Quay, one of my favourite places, the weather was good and many insects flitted in the dunes.

6 Spot Burnet moth with tongue rolled up, Kilmore Quay dunes.

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There were many 6-spot Burnets feeding on the wild flowers.

When we were young (just a few years ago), my brother Don and I regularly cycled to Bull Island and spent a lot of time in the valley between the dunes and St. Annes Golf course, looking for birds such as Cuckoos, Pipits, Larks, Reed Buntings and the odd Long Eared Owl.

But a lot of our time was spent looking at or for other things – Pigmy Shrews and Butterflies & Moths, mainly.

The 6-spot Burnet was one of the commonest moths, together with the Cinnabar.

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Male Common Blue Buttterfly Kilmore Quay dunes.

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The dunes at Kilmore Quay also held many Common Blue Butterflies.

This is a male with its wings together showing the markings underneath.

They whiz around a lot and annoy would-be viewers and photographers but when they do alight they often ‘pose’ like this with the wings up.

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Male Common Blue Butterfly, wings out, Kilmore Quay dunes.

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But the colours shown when the wings are ‘out’ in the ‘normal’ position, are superb – a brilliant electric blue, seeming to shimmer and almost defy hue definition.

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As is common for the animal kingdon,if not for humans, females are a duller brownish colour.

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Grey Seal Kilmore Quay harbour

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In the harbour at Kilmore Quay, Grey Seals were frequent visitors to feed on discarded fish scraps from the fishing activities.

The Grey Seal has a different shape head to the less common ‘Common’ Seal.

It is said to be more dog-like and this one does look a bit like a dog looking for a bone!

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One of Ireland’s birding jewels, the Saltee Islands, is a short ferry ride from Kilmore Quay, but that’s another story.


Insects, Spiders & Flowers – Review of 2010 – June

June

In mid-summer Dublin looks great, especially if it isn’t raining. But then it actually doesn’t rain as much as is commonly believed and when it does it is mostly not too heavy.  It is rare not to be able to get out for a walk.  The wildlife is generally at full charge with multi-coloured flowers, some nests still being used, babies being nursed and youngsters out exploring.

Garden Bumble Bee Bombus hortorum with pollen on Cornflower
In my garden Bumble Bees were buzzing.  There are usually a few types although bees of the beekeepers’ kind are apparently on the decline in Western Europe.  Bumble Bees are much larger and are the bees we usually visualise.  The pollen sac collected from numerous flowers can be seen clearly in this photo of a Garden Bumble Bee on a Cornflower.

It is worth planting suitable flowers to attract insects.  Apart from the joy of watching them and the knowledge that you are helping them, flowers planted near vegeatable plots can help to keep greenfly and other creatures less desirable by food and image gardners, in check, by encouraging insects that feed on them.

For this purpose, the best flowers are those with strong scents and this often means old varieties as modern catalogues are full of pretty flowers in a plastic doll fashion – nice for a fleeting look but no real character and of little use to anyone or anything.  How often so even find a modern rose with a good scent?

Incidentally those supporting the conservation of old seed varieties should be supported as much as possible as remarkably, large corporations are being allowed to trade mark and own life-forms such as new seed varieties and they are actively trying to remove the older varieties to avoid competition!

On a visit to Athlone for a 50th birhday celebration, I got a chance to look around some of the Lough Ree lakeside habitats.  Damselflies were mating around the wet and marshy areas and a dense mixture of different plants and flowers made progress slow.

Early Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata Lough Ree AthloneAmongst the more colourful and surely the most interesting flowers were the orchids. The one below, taken with a compact (party) camera, is an Early Marsh Orchid, I believe, though I’m no expert. The petals have lovely markings.
Early Marsh Orchid petal detail


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Coming back to animal life, spiders tend to get a bad press.  In June they were also thriving.   But what’s not to like about this beautiful spider which was camaflagouging himself by extending his legs along the seed head of a grass stalk beside Blessington Lakes.

There are a lot more spiders around us than many would believe, or wish to know about! Looking under the leaves of most plants will show at least one spider although they can be very small and hard to see.

In the home spiders are useful in keeping other insects under some control and are worth the odd ‘cob-web’. Balance is all important. Politicians please note.