Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 4, 2011

Spiders… again!

Not so long ago I was prompted by the late summer season, to post on here about those great polarisers of opinion – spiders!  Well, you will be pleased/horrified (delete as appropriate) to know that, once again, I have been moved to put fingers to keyboard on the same subject.

Linyphia triangularis. Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner.

Late summer/early autumn is a fine time to be looking for spiders, as many species become mature around this time and rather more obvious within their habitats.  To walk out on a dew-laiden late-September morning, with all kinds of different webs betrayed by their collected droplets, is to see just a many spiders reside among our wilder places; hundreds… thousands……millions!  I therefore took it upon myself to do a bit of work on them at the nature study centre where I work.  So with sweep net and camera in hand I ventured forth amid the grassy places of Meadowfield to see what I could find.

It would not be just spiders I would be looking out for.  I carry out regular invertebrate surveys around the centre.  Comparison of yearly records provides useful information, regarding the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the habitat management regimes in place.  Among the many non-arachnid observations made on this occasion, I am always happy for a close up view of a late-season bush-cricket or two, in this case the Long-winged Conehead, and I was very pleased to note the continued presence of Ceraleptus lividus, an uncommon species of squash bug.  Early autumn may also be a productive time for seeking out a number of our shield bugs and squash bugs.

Ceraleptus lividus. Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner.

With the spiders though, I would make an extra effort.  Many are not easily identified and critical identification of some can only be made with a microscope.  A hand lens is sufficient for numerous species however, and the use of a digital camera can make life easier still.

I would find fourteen species.  Seven of those were new to the species list for the site.  Some required little effort with identification, like the female Araneus quadratus (sometimes referred to as the Four-spotted Orb-web Spider) with her absurdly swollen, egg-filled abdomen.  Less striking, but not much less recognisable was another, smaller orb-web spider, the distinctively marked Linyphia triangularis.

Araneus quadratus. Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner.

Of the new species, a few appeared to be quite common, their absence on the species list a result of my not having put the hours in spider-wise.  Neriene clathrata, for example, appeared in most of the net samples, while the Cheiracanthium erraticum (sorry – there really aren’t many spiders that have been given a common name!) also put in regular appearances.

So yes, not everyone’s cup of tea, but a great source of autumn interest to those inclined to peer in among that silent, secret world among grass.

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