Tag Archive | jumping spider

A fall ramble: High Park and Humber Bay


Because Ontario is harsh, and the invertebrates are quickly going to ground, I decided to do two days of outings this weekend! In addition to our trip to Leslie Spit on Saturday, I went out alone to High Park on Sunday to see what I could find.


The herbaceous vegetation was mostly dead, with very few insects out and about.


I found these Leptoglossus occidentalis (western conifer seed bug) behind some boards, getting ready to overwinter. These were not present in Toronto when I was a kid.


Behind the same boards I also found a Agelenopsis on an egg sac. I replaced her carefully after this shot.


This very orange Araneus diadematus was also on an egg sac. She also posed, and then I put her back on her sac. It is doubtful the adults ever survive the winter here.


This Phidippus audax was much more orange than others we have found so far.


Not sure why it was missing a palp, but it will probably regrow, as this one was still small.


At Humber Bay, I found some hungry wasp queens. Luckily I had a vial of honey on hand. This one ate so much she could barely fly afterward, but it should fatten her up for the winter.




I was delighted to find this brown snake, AKA Dekay’s snake (Storeria dekayi) moving along a fence.


I encountered these small snakes often when I was a kid. The juveniles of this species are quite beautiful,and the adults have their own subdued charm.


These snakes are natricines, related to garter snakes. They occur in Eastern N. America all the way down to Guatemala.


This shot shows the faint iridescence of the scales


All in all, I was glad I went out! This kind of break from the downtown chaos will hopefully keep me sane!

High speed imaging of jumping spider!


Look at this beautiful Platycryptus californicus jumping spider!! She is so nice and plump! She was not always this way. When my labmate Nathan found her she was emaciated and dirty and living on the lab wall. So we fed her some blowflies!


Notice her shrunken abdomen. She is holding her legs clear of her prey while it succumbs to the venom.


Because we have fed her so well, she is now a much more attractive beast.

Anyway, today we started using a really nice high speed camera (for secret science stuff), and I needed to get the hang of working with this beastly machine. I decided a good subject would be this jumper jumping on a calliphorid fly. The videos are below. Please start the video and then immediately click the HD option and view fullscreen, as the default is kind of ugly.

So these videos are not the best in the world, as there is an annoying slowed down flickering from the incandescent light we were using (60 Hz!), but they are pretty cool anyhow. Hopefully I will do better when we get a better light source!

BTW, in both of these instances, the fly escaped. I am not even sure if the spider wanted to catch the fly, as she was already a bit stuffed. I will have to try this again with a hungrier jumper.

An overly-cooperative model?


I found this beautiful gravid female Phidippus johnsoni hanging motionless, upside-down from a grass stem this morning. She had all the hallmarks of envenomation by a spider wasp (Pompilidae). She was unresponsive, had extremely limited movement upon prodding, and was basically dead to the world.  Being such a large animal, it is possible the wasp was unable to drag the spider to her burrow, or perhaps I interrupted while the female wasp was scouting the terrain ahead.  Anyway, I took some photos with this suddenly very easy to work with subject, and then returned her to her stem of grass. Perhaps the wasp will retrieve it, and if not it will make a good meal for someone!

You can see in this shot, there is something not quite right about how she is holding her legs…

IMG_4471 IMG_4497



This shows how big the jumper was!

Cheapskate Tuesday 12: the Salticid Startler®


artist’s impression of the Salticid Startler® fitted to the Monster Macro Rig.

This week’s Cheapskate Tuesday I introduce plans and preliminary work on prototypes of a fun new tool that I hope will enable photographers to achieve better and more consistent shots of the macro shooter’s best friend: Cute jumping spiders gazing into the camera lens!

One of the challenges of jumper photography is to get opportunities of getting those head-on, deep-staring shots that make folks swoon for the sheer cuteness. Although jumping spiders  will sometimes fixate on the lens, often they think there is something better to look at just out of frame. Stupid jumpers!

Always looking away!

The rationale for the Salticid Startler  is that possibly, when faced with  an accurately painted model of a jumper with nice shiny chelicerae and bright shiny eyes, a jumper will have no choice but to stare into the lens.

The scientific rationale is that Salticids (jumping spiders) are highly visually oriented creatures, that can recognize other spiders and respond to visual cues for courtship and combat. With this in mind, I am hoping that my model, affixed in front of and below the lens will hold their attention and allow for better and longer photo opportunities.

“Look right into the camera baby… Dammit!”

To make my prototypes, I am using Sculpey, a type of polymer clay that can be baked into nice plasticky hardness. For five rather over sized models I have used about 1/4 a block (about $1.25 worth).


I will not bore you with details of construction, because that will not help anyway…This stuff is tough to work with if you have large hands! Practice with it and hopefully you can achieve better details than I have!


I will make nice beady, shiny eyes of painted epoxy, and use acrylic paints for the body. I am thinking a nice green metallic nail polish will make a nice finish for the chelicerae of a model for Phidippus johnsoni. You can substitute other colours for whatever species you are targeting.


Prototypes after baking

You will note that the prototypes are way too big…This may be a problem, but alternatively, it may act as a supernormal stimulus, which will increase their effectiveness. I plan on having someone with more nimble fingers make some more life sized ones…

shiny eyes and chelicerae: the key!

These are my thoughts for the Salticid Startler… I don’t have the talent or patience of Thomas Shahan (a god in jumper photography), so I am thinking these might be a lifesaver on my rare jumping spider outings…If any experts would like to offer suggestions, or just shoot the idea down outright, I am all ears eyes!