Tag Archive | Salticidae

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!

Spidery treasures from an exit ramp


This week I have been working in a grassy strip adjacent to an exit ramp on Annacis Island, a small industrial zone in Delta BC. One would think that there would be nothing but invasive species, litter and misery in such a place, but to my surprise, I found a great diversity of jumping spiders! Here is a selection of some of them that I photographed.


A female Phidippus looks out from a hole in the scorching concrete of a barrier rail.



I presume this elegant male is a Habronattus or Sitticus of sorts, but I am not sure what it might be. Any suggestions?





Here is a male Evarcha. This genus has some absolutely stunning eyes.




This is a male Habronattus decorus, and I am afraid my photos do not do it justice! The abdomen gleams like brushed copper in the sunlight.



These little guys seem to be great posers, and I would like to do some more shots of them soon.


This is one shot which captures the metallic copper abdomen.


I believe this is the female Habronattus decorus, and she too has some coppery gleam, but is more camouflaged than the male.


I have both of these in petri dishes now, so I will try to introduce them after they have had a feed.


What a great haul of spiders! I did not mention any of the great number of Synageles I saw, but will definitely post some shots when I get them!



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.

The jumper that’s close to home


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.


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


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.


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


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

Cheapskate Tuesday 21: Sitting on black


Seeing as how last week’s Sitting on White was fun to do, and inspired by this great post by Alex Wild, I decided to shoot some jumpers sitting on black.

To do this, I simply spray painted a sheet of window glass black, and used the unsprayed side as a stage. The lighting was much more simple than Alex’s, just  single diffused speedlight overhead. All shots required a good deal of “healing” to remove dust, but in general they came out OK. The better method would be to get a thick piece of glass as Alex described, but I do not have any such on hand, and if I had tried this with the glass suspended, i would get ugly double reflections. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pics, and get inspired to try it yourself!



I think this guy could see his reflection!

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By the way, when I tried to bring in a snooted rim-light, this is what happened. Messy, but kind of cool!


Cheapskate Tuesday 20: Sitting on white


The photos I took Sunday of the pretty Habronattus males were fun and effective because of their simple composition. This is not a difficult look to achieve, and only requires a diffused flash and a white surface. This is a technique I use often as a shortcut to isolate a subject, and it looks pretty nice!

For these shots, I was shooting on a white formica table, but I have used just a blank sheet of typing paper as well. I just placed the spiders on the table, brought in a diffused flash (YN-560 with the Cheapskate Diffuser Mk II) at 1/8 power, and blasted away at ISO 250-320 at f13. I used a 100 mm macro lens with 37 mm of extension tubes. The exposure I brought up in post so that most of the background goes to white (overexposed on all channels) then reigned in the subject using the blacks slider in Adobe Camera Raw. Often using this technique I get loss of contrast due to the light reflecting off the large white surface directly at the front element, but so long as it is not to severe, this can be brought back in post.


Setup: white sheet, attractive subject, blast light from your favourite angle! Done!

While environmental portraits showing the habitat or behaviour are great and something to work at, you can try this as an easy way to document a subject in isolation when you need a good quality image. The way I look at it is as a convenient visual shorthand that conveys the physical appearance of a subject with no distraction, much in the same way that fashion photographers or catalogue photographers use the same technique. I used this to add some good images of Habronattus ophrys (which is very difficult to shoot in situ) to bugguide.net. I think they turned out nicely, and show how beautiful some of our local spiders can be. What do you think?


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Weekend Expedition 21: A spider hunt at Iona Beach


This weekend expedition, I put out the call for our lab members to join me in a trip to Iona Beach, which is just bustling this time of year with all kinds of wonderful creatures, especially some wonderful spiders. I was joined by Catherine Scott, Samantha Vibert, Matt Holl and Nathan Derstine from our lab, and the newly-minted Dr. Gwylim Blackburn of UBC. We were heavily loaded with spider experts, as Catherine studies the western black widow, Sam has studied the hobo spider, and Gwylim is an expert in salticid behaviour and evolution. Luckily for us, Iona Beach was a field site for both Samantha and Gwylim, so they knew the good spots to find the best spiders.


A chrysidid seeks bee nests to parasitize


A male Yellow-headed Blackbird. This population at Iona Beach is a very disjunct coastal population of a normally Interior bird.



A male Salticus scenicus (Zebra Jumper). Look at his amazing chelicerae!


Sam enjoys the Yellow-headed Blackbird


We checked out the progress on the new Wild Research banding hut.


A male Tree Swallow watches his mate’s nest box.


The female peeks out.


Gwylim handles a newly-shed garter snake


So bright!


A male Habronattus americanus traverses a log.


A large female Trochosa wolf spider hides under a log.


A female Hobo Spider (Tegenaria agrestis) under a log at the beach.



A very large female Habronattus americanus was unimpressed with our match making (we tried to bring a male in to see courtship).



The male Habronattus americanus, resplendent with his bright colouration.


This jumper Matt found is is Habronattus hirsutus.


A female Phidippus johnsoni looks out from her egg sac.



Gwillim and Catherine searching for Habronattus ophrys.


Nathan scans the ground carefully. H. ophrys is very elusive!


A beautiful Philodromid (running crab spider) under an aster.

At the end of the day, I did some studio shots with the Habronattus ophrys and the Habronattus hirsutus, as the first one at least has very poor photo documentation.


Habronattus hirsutus


Habronattus hirsutus


Habronattus ophrys


Habronattus ophrys

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…

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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!