Tag Archive | Spiders

Weekend Expedition 44: French Beach Bugs

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This weekend Catherine and I finally got out for an outing in the woods. Her knee is still bad, so it had to be somewhere with not much hiking involved, so we chose to go to French Beach. This park out past Sooke is getting out farther into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and thus has a bit more of the character of a wild west coast beach than those closer to Victoria. Unfortunately for us, the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and the temperature was much chillier than the previous day. We did manage a bit of arthropod hunting, and had lunch before a spat of freezing rain sent us back to Victoria.

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The beach was a bit dreary and cold, but that is pretty normal this time of year. If we had managed to get out on Friday it would have been much nicer.

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Our first arachnological find was this remarkably still wolf spider. Here is an example of a “naturally chilled” arthropod that retains a normal posture.

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We did some excavation under the bark of a downed Sitka Spruce, and found this svelte centipede.

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We were delighted to find a lovely Pseudoscorpion under the bark. I am sure the diminutive creature was less happy to see us.

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Of course, some lovely Amaurobiids were to be found as well.

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Royalty: a formerly-winged reproductive Pacific Coast Dampwood Termite.

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At the end of the day, the weekend expedition was a success, as it got us out and active and showed us that there is a life beyond thesis writing!

Spider males must be subtle

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Check out this new paper in Frontiers in Zoology.  describing experiments that show that male hobo and black widow spiders use low amplitude vibrations to court females and avoid sounding like prey. This paper was written by my labmates Samantha Vibert, Catherine Scott and Gerhard Gries, and congratulations are in order for pushing through a tough research project.

It seems that spiders are finally starting to get a lot more attention from behavioural studies, and they seem to strike a chord with the public too, especially when reporters refer to the spider movements as “twerking“.  Have a look at what Catherine has to say about this paper over at SpiderBytes.

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Weekend Expedition 43: Don Rafael’s farm

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We did manage to get out on the weekend for a small expedition, to see a working farm/ranch and some remnant oak and gallery forest near Gualaco. This was a muddy undertaking, as there had been some considerable rain the night before. We did see some cool stuff, including this Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans).

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The scrubby ranchlands do not have very large trees,

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Catherine and I rode this horse, which had a fresh vampire bite wound on its neck, across the river. That is our host, Don Rafael, on the right.

 

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We checked out some cattle up the road, and their parasitic flies as well.

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Upon returning home, we did some shooting of insects and spiders. This is some kind of blister beetle (Meloidae). Catherine has more spider photos here.

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A nice jumper that we found inside our window.

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Tortoise beetles are awesome!

Spider Monday: Exotic Spiders

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Heteropoda venatoria, a large huntsman spider introduced from Asia. I shared my mosquito rearing rooms in Florida with these monsters, who presumably ate the large American Cockroaches (also introduced) who lived there.

Thanks to global trade and human movement, you no longer need to travel the world to see the world of spiders. There are many introduced and exotic species in our own backyards. In fact, some of the most common spiders we see every day in North America are introduced from elsewhere. This page on BugGuide, compiled by Beatriz Moisset, served as a great reference; there are more than 57 species listed.

I have to wonder what kind competitive effects these introduced predators have had on the native fauna. Some of them are by far the most numerous spiders in a given habitat, and they must have pushed out some of the native species.  As far as I know, this topic has received little study, although why that should be the case, I am not sure.

Anyway, here are some of the exotic spiders i have encountered over the years. I hope you enjoy them on this Spider Monday!

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This is a Huntsman female I kept as a pet. My one attempt to get her a boyfriend ended badly, as he was quickly seized and devoured in a gruesome rejection scene.

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Pholcus phalangioides, the Longbodied Cellar Spider is also probably introduced.

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Philodromus dispar male. These dapper fellows must have a rough life, as many times I find them with missing legs.

Philodromus dispar female

The female Philodromus dispar are more conventionally attired.

The Giant House Spider, Tegenaria duellica (also referred to as T. gigantea), is one of the most common spiders in urban BC. If someone tells you they found this “really huge spider” 9 times out of 10 it is this!

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The less boldly-marked congener, Tegenaria agrestis, is commonly called the Hobo Spider.

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There are several therediids introduced to North America as well, perhaps none so notorious as the brown widow, Latrodectus geometricus. This spider gets a bad rap for being dangerous, but its only crime is to its spider brethren. They can be exceedingly abundant, and probably compete strongly with the native tangle web-weaving spiders.

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They are extraordinarily fecund: all these egg sacs seem to have been laid by a single female. The brown widow egg sacs always have this shape reminiscent of an anti-shipping mine.

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Even some of the jumping spiders are introduced. Here is Salticus scenicus, the so-called zebra jumper.

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In Florida, I encountered Menemerus bivittatus, the grey wall jumper.

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This is Sitticus fasciger, a jumping spider from Asia that seems to be spreading.

http://bugguide.net/node/view/32329#Anchor_Araneae

Not a Love Story: a blog post about spider sex

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Romance between highly sexually dimorphic spiders such as the Cross Orbweaver, Araneus diadematus is fraught with danger for the smaller male. His potential objet d’amour is many times his size, fast and often hungry. Therefore, when he approaches a female’s web, he is very tentative, signalling his intentions with much tapping and stroking of her web and forelegs. With repeated bouts of this, he is often able to approach closely while the female appears to be put into a quiescent state.

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The size differential is great, so the male is cautious

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Much “footsie” type courtship seems par for the course, and is kinda cute.

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Eventually the female hangs motionless.

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the final approach

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that is a close embrace!

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hmmm. that seems like too close an embrace!

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Doesn’t look good for Lothario here.

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Nope. I think we may chalk this up to a “fatal sexual encounter”. I am sure another male will be around shortly!

Weekend Expedition 30: A day off in Stanley Park

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A picture of me, with a sizable prey item, trying to hold it together!

It has been a busy couple weeks here in Vancouver, preparing manuscript revisions for an upcoming paper and writing grant proposals for upcoming fieldwork. They way it is looking now, I may soon be travelling to Honduras in the fall for a 3 week expedition to survey for Red-throated Caracaras and Scarlet Macaws in a remote region of Olancho. This trip will also be to familiarize myself with the terrain, meet the local conservationists and researchers, and get rolling on some permitting issues pertaining to future fieldwork. This is an exciting development for species and habitat conservation, as well as for my harebrained scheme to continue research on my favourite loud birds!

Anyway, with all the excitement, it has been tough to find time to go out to shoot, but that is exactly what I did yesterday, hanging out in Stanley Park, and seeing what the late summer had to offer.

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At first, I thought this fly was a member of the Orthorrhapha, the group including horseflies, but Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus correctly ID’ed it as a Tachinid! Don’t believe me? Check out the closeup of the antennae! The species is Euthera setifacies, one of only two species of Euthera in North America.

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That’s a Cyclorhaphan, man! Those antennae are aristate!

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The Himalayan Blackberry is still being visited by pollinators, but the vast majority of the fruit is ripe.

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The ripe blackberry is under heavy attack by Drosophila suzukii, an invasive species of vinegar fly from Japan. This is male shows why  the species goes by the common name “Spotted-winged Drosophila”.

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This male Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) is also a harbinger of fall. Their colony cycle is almost finished, reproductives are being produced, and within a month or so their nests will decline.

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When the Bald-faced Hornets (Dolichovespula maculata) start nectaring, it is also an indication their colonies are in decline. Because much of the sugar for the adults is produced by the larvae (trophallaxis!), when larval numbers are low, adults must find other sources of fuel.

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A Sierra Dome Spider, Neriene litigiosa (Linyphiidae) has a snack at the top of her dome web. As fall approaches, these become extremely apparent in almost every salal bush.

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Our largest native slug, the Spotted Banana Slug eats some skunk cabbage.

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The termites are flying, and their long wings and slow flight make for easy snares for web-building spiders. I like how the green of the fern is reflected in the translucent wings.

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A Pacific Forktail (Ischnura cervula) hangs out by the water.

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A Black Dancer (Mystacides sepulchralis) a type of Caddisfly, rests near Lost Lagoon.

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Some kind of Nematus sawfly.

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A raccoon checks out the situation before crossing the water.

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I love how they hold their tails out!

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Those without tails make do.

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A very late brood Mallard Duckling from water level.

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I was excited to see this male Pine White nectaring.

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The omnipresent Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides).

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Skippers can be pretty cute!

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A lucky Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) takes advantage of the skipper abundance.

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An introduced Drumming Katydid female (Meconema thalassinum) hangs out on a fern. Check out Piotr Naskrecki’s awesome blog post showing katydids ovipositing!

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A colourful background makes this bumblebee pop!

Cheapskate Tuesday 25: Einige Kleine NachtSpinnen

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A few weeks ago, I suggested a Rat Safari, as a budget-minded wildlife photo expedition that is easy to do in most cities. Today, I bring you a budget spider safari, which Catherine and I conducted in the tiny  park across the street. For this to work, I needed some constant illumination in the subject area, so I simply taped my Fenix E-05 flashlight to the lens hood of my 100 mm, which illuminated the spiders for easy focusing. The lighting for the shots was simply accomplished with a single diffused speedlight on the Monster Macro Rig. I hope you enjoy the photos, and are inspired to go find some little night spiders yourself!

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Realm of the Amaurobiids: These Hacklemesh Weavers are the most abundant of the spiders we found. Their disordered web flanking their retreat is laid as a trap for unwary passing insects.

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Some webs are more sparse than others!

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Here is a freshly-moulted Amaurobiid.

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We guess that this is a male Steatoda hespera (Therediidae).

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These small orb weavers (Araneidae) were out in small numbers.

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A nice big sac spider (Clubionidae)! This is a female.

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Could this male sac spider be the same species as the previous? It is difficult to tell. There are hundreds of species of Clubionidae in Canada.

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Here a male Amaurobiid tackles an introduced Drumming Katydid (Meconema thalassinum)

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Weekend Expedition 27: SFU and the Pandora Community Garden

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This weekend I have been working on revisions on a paper, so have not had time for a full-fledged expedition, but I spent a couple hours outside the lab at school (Simon Fraser University) on Saturday and Sunday, and some time in the Community Garden at Pandora Park in the evenings. For the time invested, it was not a bad haul of shots!

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Dis you know that National Moth Week is upon us? This Pale Beauty did! Check back here Thursday for moth shots, as I am organizing a nighttime light trapping at school Wednesday night.

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Mounting a second flash in a tree up the trail, I mimicked what a foraging bird might cue in on when examining sun-struck foliage.

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Once he landed, this fly was very cooperative for photography! I didn’t notice his Nematoceran buddy til later though.

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Here I am trying to make millipedes look good.

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A Coquillettidia perturbans feeds on my arm. This species has larvae with a blade-like siphon that they pierce plant tissue with in order to breathe. They never have to come to the surface.

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Found this firebrat (Thermobia domestica) in a basement hallway at SFU. They must have been on my mind, as my friend Nathan Woodbury just defended his PhD last week describing how these guys use symbiotic bacteria and fungi as site cues for resting spots.

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A male Polistes dominula found at the community garden. I should revise my post about in situ on white, because I find when I push the whites using levels in Photoshop, I get a cleaner result than in  ACR…

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Polistes dominula and thrips. What a size difference!

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Bombus vosnesenskii on lavender. They really are an elegant bee.

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I put the Polistes on an Echinacea. I think he liked it.

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At the SFU comminity gardens, a honeybee learns the perils of pollination.

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This is one of the major perils, and so pretty! The Goldenrod Crab Spider lies in wait, and seems to blend in with its surroundings.

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A Snipe Fly (Rhagionidae likely in the genus Rhagio) in the clutches of death.

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Will this hoverfly learn? No one can say. This pullback shot was possible thanks to the Monster Macro Rig; see the next picture for details.

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This is a configuration you can use for pullback shots using the Monster Macro Rig. Notice that the camera body is pulled way back on the Arca rail, and the magic arms are somewhat extended forward. It can go even further than that, but mostly I use it close in. Photo by Mike Hrabar, who captured a wicked shot of the Crab Spider and Snipe Fly encounter.

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Speaking of hoverflies, what I love about this shot is how the vortices from the landing fly kick up the pollen.

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Honeybee, looking elegant on Echinacea.

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The Weekend Expedition ended with this lovely Brown Lacewing on a daisy neat the Pandora Park Community Garden.

Fearful symmetry

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In defensive posture!

Of all the spiders found locally, none has more impressive fangs than Dysdera crocata, the Woodlouse Hunter. These beauties are often found under logs near the beach or in woodlands. I have this one in the lab, hoping one day to record some of the predation behaviour on video.  Their bright coloration and fearsome armaments make these one of my favourite species.

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Shy with legs drawn in.

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dorsal view.

The jumper that’s close to home

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This lovely jumping spider is a common sight on walls around the Vancouver area: meet Platycryptus californicus, a member of the Marpissinae subfamily of Salticidae.  If you live in Eastern North America, another PlatycryptusP. undatus is also common.

At first glance, P. californicus seems a wee bit boring. They are overall grey and drab, and hang out on grey drab walls. When shot up close on white, however, these little salticids reveal their beauty. I found this one yesterday on a wall in my back yard, and a couple days ago one was in my living room. This is truly one jumper that has adapted well to the urban habitat.

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The greyness and drabness help these little jumpers blend in to rocks and now concrete.

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The drabness is not complete however, as there are rufous hairs scattered around, particularly near the eyes and on the sides of the abdomen. A bold white stripe is evident on the lower portion of the prosoma, just above the legs.

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Unlike some other species, these jumpers seem to pause every once in a while, which makes photography easier. Check out those cute little eyelashes!

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They seem to move their palps quite a bit (perhaps to cover their hideous fangs, like Dracula with his cape?)