Tag Archive | Spiders

Some winter spiders at Island View Beach


Catherine and I are back in BC for Christmas, hanging out with my mom in Victoria. The weather has largely been atrocious, so the photo opportunities have been scarce. However, the past couple days has seen a bit of clearing, so we headed up to Island View to see what we could see.


A small male Pardosa was the first wolf we saw, and was surprisingly active, despite the freezing temperatures.


A larger female wolf was a bit less active, but still good to see.


Though the weather is cold, prey are still around and active, and in fact the widows we saw still had small capture webs. Not sure if they ever snack on these termites, but it is possible.


Many of the female widows were quiescent, though some could still move about.


As usual, there were immature males hanging out on the periphery of the females’ webs. These “winter males” are bigger, bulkier, and more like females than the summer crop.


It is likely that these “winter males” undergo more molts to achieve their greater size, and perhaps the bulk is needed to survive the freezing temperatures without feeding much. They could be well placed to secure early matings in the spring.


We traveled about the beach quite a bit, and believe now that the good widow habitat might be more extensive than we previously thought. It will require some careful mapping to determine though.


After returning from the beach, I went up to Mt. Tolmie and saw some more widows, including this large female, who was entirely black underneath. The habitat here is more patchy, but still supports decent widow populations.


At both Island View and M. Tolmie, we found quite a few overwintering cutworms.


Also found a tiny gnaphosid, which may be Sergiolus.


I ended the spidering by uncovering a sleeping Phidippus, under a small rock.


An Arachtober Spider Outing


My smartphone sucks, probably as much as my smartphone photography technique!

On a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, Catherine and I made our suburban shopping rounds to keep ourselves fed (downtown Toronto is bloody expensive!), and then headed out to Humber Bay to find some spiders!


All over the beach we found these awesome gray wolves…Perhaps a Pardosa? Probably. There are a bunch of dark Pardosa in these parts. 


Getting them to pause for a photo was tough, as they were warm and in the mood to run.


This Hogna-like wolf spider was much more accomodating! Super pretty as well.


These spiders are difficult for non-experts to ID…I sent the pictures to an awesome wolf spider identifier I know, but I am not sure if she will respond.


A juvenile Phidippus audax, with surprisingly orange spectacles!


We found a few of these araneids, which we figure to be Zygiella atrica, and introduced one from Europe


Here is the male of Zygiella atrica, which we found adjacent to a female’s web.


The characteristic orb web of Zygiella. Note the missing sector at the top left.


A Philodromid looks awesome on a fall leaf.


Catherine found a few Larinioides hiding out in leaves.


Near a lighted building, we found our expected plethora of tetragnathids and Larinioides in almost communal webs. We also found a bunch of tiny dictynids, which I did not get any shots of.


Some of the Larinioides were quite light in colour. We need to collect a few sometime, as there are a couple species here in Toronto.


We even found a big old Castianeira, who seemed to be doing quite well living under the lights!


Weekend Expedition 66: Highland Creek


It is early fall in Ontario, and the leaves are changing colours…Seems to me the animals are not very abundant right now, probably because at this time of year freezing weather can hit at any time. A bit different from the west coast!
Most of the flowers are gone, and the few that remain are looking pretty shabby. Catherine and I still haven’t got out near Toronto very much to see the sights, but this Saturday I took off into the woods around the University of Toronto Scarborough while Catherine was invigilating an exam. This campus abuts Highland Creek, and there is a wooded Valley just below which has walking paths and woods. A great place to explore!


Right by the campus, Catherine found this awesome common house spider, Parasteatoda tepidariorum. Correction! This is Parasteatoda tabulata, which makes a debris-covered retreat! These cool therediids can be quite pretty!


Under some bark we found this Agelenopsis female with an eggsac.


We brought along our 6-legged parson spider (Herpyllus ecclesiasticus) to do some outdoor shots. This awesome and extremely fast spider is a gnaphosid.


We aren’t sure how she lost her legs, but she can still move very quickly!


In the woods, I found a lot of red-backed salamanders. The species in the east is Plethodon cinereus.


This one was only about 4 cm long, and was very obliging for photography.


This seems to be a “leadback” phase of Plethodon cinereus. More on this species here.


Under a log I found a couple overwintering queens of bald-faced hornets, Dolichovespula maculata. They didn’t seem too pleased to see me!


This one was vibrating her wings, probably to go off and search for a new site to overwinter after being disturbed.


I can’t get over the cormorants! When I was a kid, they did not exist here!


This is the first photo I have ever gotten of a cormorant yawning!


Sometime very soon we have to get out of town to see the fall colours…They are probably spectacular right around now!


I just barely scratched the surface of this extensive protected valley, and I am sure I will come back again and again!

Some Arachtober shots and thoughts



October is a month for spiders, being the time when many of the species which have grown large on summer’s bounty are settling down to lay eggs, or looking for overwintering sites. For spider photographers, it is like golden hour all month! If you search flickr for “Arachtober” you will find the photographic bounty that macrophotographers have amassed.

This Arachtober, I have not really been applying myself to spider photography, although I have made some dedicated efforts to secure shots of black widow defenses (for Catherine’s invited  talk at last weekend’s ESBC conference), or Steatoda males and females, for my friend Chloe Gerak’s award-winning talk at the same conference.

Anyway, here are some shots and thoughts about my Arachtober.



Western black widow throwing silk on Catherine’s finger at Island View Beach.


Catherine gave a great talk on “dangerous spiders” at the ESBC conference, her first 1/2 hour talk. Her t-shirt (thanks Alex Wild!) serves as a great abstract of the talk.


Female Steatoda grossa with a bit of backlight highlighting her web. False black widows around here are not very black!


Chloe after delivering her awesome, award-winning talk entitled “How the false widow finds true love”.


Male and female Steatoda grossa juxtaposed for comparison.


A largish sac spider (Clubionidae) showing the large chelicerae typical of the family.


Putting the light a little behind the spider can help resolve some of the surface details and maintain a bit of mysteriousness at the same time.


More direct light makes for a less moody feel as the sac spider drinks water on a colourful leaf.


Arachtober is also a scary time for spiders. Here is an emesine thread-legged bug I found in a spider retreat, where it was likely feeding on spider eggs.


Fall foliage makes for a wonderful seasonal backdrop for this Hallowe’en spider villain.




Weekend Expedition 57: Thanksgiving in Victoria


This weekend, Catherine and I visited Victoria, for the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. The weather was not super cooperative for outdoor activities, and Catherine was working hard on her PhD NSERC proposal, but we did manage one trip out to Island View Beach to check up on the local arthropods. I also went for a stroll in Uplands Park to get some of the following shots.


This is how the rain looked on Saturday morning…


Better to be sheltered inside, or under the eaves of a house!


Quite a few grasshoppers were out and about. This one I shot as it was hiding on a Garry Oak leaf (you can see I was holding a white card below).


A juvenile wolf spider looking odd and elegant with two very prominent eyes.


A Dysdera crocata male in Uplands Park.


An Aphaenogaster occidentalis worker carrying brood in Uplands Park. This species does well in Garry Oak meadows.


Catherine, my friend Jeff, and a borrowed golden retriever (Jackson) at Island View Beach.


The fall selection of resting Hymenoptera was much more limited than previously, with this impressively-ovipositored ichneumonid being the only example we could find.


Resting snakes were about though; this garter snake was torpid and remained in a ball rather than trying to flee when we found her under a log.


Spiders were to be found in large numbers though, this being Arachtober and all. Here is a tetragnathid backlit with a bare flash.


Here is a running crab spider, of the genus Tibellus; the same one appears at the top of the post. These are very elegant-looking little spiders, and make great photographic subjects.


Most of the creatures we found were covered by a light dew. This cranefly sparkles.


This female Araneus diadematus was particularly large. That is Catherine’s finger for scale.


Speaking of large, here is a giant! A giant house spider, formerly Tegenaria duellica, now this species is called Eratigena atrica. Since Catherine is scheduled to give an upcoming talk on spider bites (and how they are very unlikely) at the ESBC conference, we decided for an illustrative photo shoot.


Here is the same spider sinking her fangs into resting peacefully on Catherine’s nose.


Apparently, the feet tickle. Not that I would ever try this, that would be crazy. 


A female Castianeira we found under some old plywood.


A penultimate male black widow. These ones that overwinter always seem to be more robust and darker than the juveniles that develop quickly in the summer. I would imagine this is a textbook example of phenotypic plasticity; one that deserves more careful study.


Again with an eye to Catherine’s upcoming talk, we took some shots of black widow defensive behaviour. Here a female throws glue-like silk on an offending finger. This is so reliable, I might have to try this in a studio setting with some nice backlight!


Last but not least, on our final morning in Victoria, we walked on Mt. Tolmie, where we found this male Anna’s hummingbird, still defending territory. It is impressive these little birds are still nesting in the cold wet fall!

Spider rappelling! A great way to get around.


When a spider wants to make a long distance traverse between two objects, or just wants a quick way to ascend an obstacle, what can he do? Lets find out by watching a male crab spider.


Well, as in ballooning, the spider can jet out a thread of silk, letting it be carried by the wind.


The spider then turns and checks the tension on the web to see if it has snagged a target. In this case, there is no tension, so the spider reels in the thread. I am not sure if crab spiders consume the spent silk.


Another try, in another direction.


This time the tension is right, and the spider quickly disappears from the frame.


And arrives safely at another, more lively flower.

Weekend Expedition 54: Burns Bog and Centennial Beach


This past weekend, The Spider Crew (Sam Evans, Catherine Scott, Samantha Vibert and Gwylim Blackburn) and I set out to find an elusive and rare gnaphosid in the vast wetness of Burns Bog. Gnaphosa snohomish is supposed to be the only peatland specialist gnaphosid in Canada, and was a great reason to go out to the bog.


Believe it or not, we all piled into Daisy, a 1984 Toyota Tercel on loan from Sofi Hindmarch. Yeah, it’s got a hemi!


Samantha examines some riparian flowers on the walk in.



The Labrador Tea was fragrant and abundant.


The wild blueberries were in full swing!



I liked the way the fern was projected on this skunk cabbage.


In the bog proper, there was evidence of spiders. This belongs to a Hahniid, which Catherine will cover in an upcoming post.


A very odd construction indeed. An egg sac?


Sam managed to find a jumper on some blueberries.


and a crab as well.


Under the trees, in rotted logs, amaurobiids were common.


Interestingly, they seem to show a curious “legs up” posture when blown on. We had seen a similar reaction among Ctenids in Honduras.


An Uloborid with its amazing silk trap set.


A gorgeous linyphiid on her web. Check out her weird epigynum!



Samantha and Catherine consult the primary literature in the field. The article in question is: Bennett, R. G., S. M. Fitzpatrick & J. T. Troubridge. Redescription of the rare ground spider Gnaphosa snohomish (Araneae: Gnaphosidae), an apparent bog specialist endemic to the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin area. J. Ent. Soc. Ont. 137: 13-23.


Our hunt was turning up nothing gnaphbosid like, so we stopped for lunch.


Spidering makes for healthy appetites, especially when goat cheese, hummus tomato and basil are available.


Shortly after lunch, it was evident that the black dog of spidering failure had visited us, so we made a move for our second objective: confirmation of a population of black widows at Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen.


We were shocked at the similarities between this beach and Island View Beach. Each has a shallow bay, a large foreshore protected from high tide, abundant driftwood, sloping fields behind, and a bluff overhanging. The human traffic is a bit more intense at Centennial though.


Rolling over logs, and what did we find?


Black widows! Just look at this absolutely gorgeous overwintered male!


This guy was so spectacular… Almost the size of a young female.


Females with egg sacs and hatchlings were also around.


Here is a youngster near an egg sac.


And a large female with a new egg sac.


We ended the day back in Vancouver with some ice cream. Overall, a good effort, with 1/2 of our objectives met. We will get you next time Gnaphosa snohomish!

Weekend Expedition 52: Return to the exit ramp


Last week, Catherine Scott, Sam Evans and I returned to the Annacis Island exit ramp to see the amazing array of salticids in all their glory. A rather odd place for a Weekend Expedition, but we found there is abundant life to be found in a noisy, chaotic industrial zone roadway.


Believe it or not, a concrete barrier provides great habitat for spiders! All the cracks, gaps and holes are good for retreats, and the busy roadway provides an endless source of maimed and stunned insects to serve as prey.



Most of the jumpers we found were smaller sized, but there were a few larger Phidippus as well.


This Phidippus female looks especially pretty on her drab background.


One of the most common spiders was Salticus scenicus, the introduced Zebra Jumper.


Here a Salticus scenicus female munches on a maimed moth.


Other arthropods are to be found on the concrete as well, such as ground beetles, ants and honeybees.


We found this crab spider in the rock fill of the bridge. It has a colouration reminiscent of Evarcha jumping spiders.


I am not sure who this cutie is, but she kept raising her palps up in a really endearing way.


Here is an Evarcha showing off some stunning eyes.


I did manage to find another male Habronattus decorus!


Their colouration is remarkable, but it is hard to convey in a photo!


Catherine and Sam found a couple male Habronattus ophrys males! We had no idea these beauties were to be found here; we had found them previously at Iona Beach.




Behold the awesome eyebrows and palps!



We stopped for some emergency calories at a local organic eating establishment McDonald’s and found this interesting contraption, well guarded by a furious chihuahua!



Feel the fury!

Weekend Expedition 49: you don’t have to go far!


This weekend I spent close to home, working on my final thesis tweaks before it goes out to my committee. Instead of going on a proper expedition, I decided to explore our new neighbourhood of Kerrisdale. Right near our house is a largely-disused railway line that has some good habitat, including tall grasses and saplings, so that is where I rambled. In addition to finding the cuckoo wasps on Friday evening, I also saw a bunch of other cool stuff!


At the top of the grasses where I found the chrysidids, I encountered many large sac spiders (Clubionidae). These fearsome-looking spiders all seemed to be feeding on the same thing: Aphids! With these huge chelicerae and fangs, it seems to be a bit of an overkill!


Check out the chelicerae on this girl!


Also interested in aphids, these Myrmica are milking a thriving colony on a sapling. I figure these are Myrmica incompleta, a fairly robust species.


Myrmica are rather fascinating ants, and a genus I am working with. More on this another day.


These ants have quite the herd of aphids!


On a quick trip to Trout Lake (in East Van), I found some little katydid nymphs. These appear to be meadow katydids, a welcome change from the introduced drumming katydids.


A robust dolichopodid (Long-legged Fly) by the side of Trout Lake. They are quick!


Not quick enough for this tiger fly (Coenosia spp.)!


Here is a Coenosia looking regal and dramatic in the sunset.


This golden dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria) was also looking regal (and probably freshly-eclosed).


Back at the railroad tracks in Kerrisdale, I found these Lasius taking honeydew from a scale insect on an oak sapling.


and some mating Coleophora deauratella (red clover casebearer).

Weekend Expedition 47: Some shots from Island View Beach


Catherine and I spent our last full day on the Island visiting her field site at Island View Beach. The weather was cool with a bit of rain, and it was a good time to explore the driftwood and dunes looking for arthropods.


The Formica obscuripes colony I visited earlier this year was busy and seems to have some reproductives emerging.


These ants are colourful and charismatic.


The winged adults were not flying (yet) but seemed ready to do so when conditions are right.


A dance fly (Empididae) waiting on a grass leaf.


A male Zebra Jumper (Salticus scenicus) scoping around for females. These guys have massive chelicerae!


A soldier among workers of the western subterranean termite, Reticulitermes hesperus.


There were quite a few Dysdera crocata hiding under the logs. Catherine and I learned that these can live up to four years in captivity!


A particularly large and pretty giant house spider, Eratigena duellica.


This tiger crane fly bears some superficial similarity to a male black widow… The same long orange-yellow legs with dark joints anyway.



Another crane fly from head-on.


I do not know what this spider might be, and this is the only shot I got…Any ideas?


Tenebrionids live a long and presumably boring life. This one is feeding on moss, which I guess is good, but not my favourite.


This Phidippus johnsoni was the only other jumper we encountered. The Habronattus were not active.


Of course, the widows were quite abundant as usual. We saw many females, none with egg sacs, and no males…Our search was not extensive though. We were hoping to see some of the large overwintered morph males such as the one I encountered last week.