Laundry Day

One of the pluses of hanging laundry outside — besides that lovely clean small — is the surprises you find when you reel in your clothes.

Yesterday it was this wee jumping spider. She (he?) was sitting in the sun on top of a sheet. As I tried to gather her to safety she spun herself down on a delicate silk thread and landed on the deck.

These little guys personify cuteness. Even some folks who hate spiders grudgingly admit an interest in them.

Get up close to one (how could anything this small hurt the monster that is you?) and you’ll find them curious, turning to look at you and watching your movements.

Jumping spider

The spider I found is not colourful — beige, blonde and black easily blend in with the wooded area where I found her.

If you want colour, check out peacock jumping spiders.

Australian Jurgen Otto has earned a wide following for his study of these psychedelically coloured arachnids — especially since he started adding music to their “dances”.

Take a peek at “YMCA” or “Stayin’ Alive” — bet you’re gonna fall in love with these guys. 🙂

Jumping spider   Pelegrina flavipes ?

Spider Ma’am

Tis the season to be prolific — at least among the wolf spiders. I’ve recently begun seeing a number of females carrying egg sacs. The sacs — each containing dozens of eggs — are attached to their spinnerets so they carry them wherever they go.

The wolf spider is a protective mother. When the eggs hatch the spiderlings crawl onto her back. They grab onto special hairs with a knob-like ending — “hair handles” — to keep themselves from falling off. Clever.

I took this pic September 26, 2016 — the only one I’ve ever managed to get of a female with young. The bodies are translucent yellow; the legs are almost clear which makes them difficult to see.

Female wolf spider with young

Wolf spiders are among my favourite spiders. Like their namesake they are hunters, running down their prey instead of spinning a web and waiting for something to tumble into it.

Wolf spider

Wolf spider   Pardosa spp.



Form and Function

Wikipedia explains it well:

Form follows function is a principle associated with modernist architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.

The architects who developed this concept might well have borrowed it from a spider for the shape of this web certainly meets its intended purpose — a circular pattern of silk threads designed to capture lunch.

It’s not a perfect trap. Stuff happens. Catch a bird (or a careless hiker) and the whole thing goes for naught. A major do-over is required. But flies or little bugs, that’s a different matter. They can be subdued and stored in the cupboard or eaten right away.

Unlike a building, a web can have holes and funky patches. No matter, since the web owner is architect, builder and site inspector. Whatever works, works.

Spider web closeup

Form and function in action. 🙂

How the Bumblebee Lost Her Buzz

I spied a very quiet bumblebee sitting near one of the lupines yesterday. Odd behaviour for midday.

I looked closer. Ooops. The bumblebee had stumbled into the clutches of a large goldenrod crab spider.


Crab spiders are ambush predators. They wait for insects to visit flowers in search of pollen and honey.

They blend in well which makes them successful hunters. Using pigments in their body they can even change colour, from white (often with pink stripes or blotches) to yellow and back again. According to the Encyclopedia of Life it takes 10-25 days to turn from white to yellow but only about 6 days to turn from yellow to white.

So: Bumblebee arrives. Spider grabs it with her outstretched legs. Injects venom through her fangs. Paralyzes bumblebee.

Predator and prey

Once the prey is subdued the spider injects digestive enzymes into (or onto) the victim’s body, liquefying the insides. Then it slurps up the liquid. Nothing like a high-powered  protein shake for lunch.

Death among the flowers

How long did it take from start to finish? Hard to say. When I first discovered the bumblebee she was pointing head-first into the flower. When I checked again about 30 minutes later the spider had manoeuvred the bee around so that its head was pointing more to the front. Was this so she could better access the body fluids?

Manoeuvring her prey

Later still I discovered that the spider had finished her meal. I checked for bumblebee remains — in the flower stalk, on the ground, among the leaves. Nothing. Where did it go? A mystery.

I checked the lupine again today. The crab spider was still there. A moment later I stood transfixed as a fat bumblebee landed on the flowers, just petals away from the spider-in-hiding. Would she catch this one too?

Too close for comfort

Luckily for the bee she buzzed off to another stalk. As for the spider? She crawled out in full view, stretching out in the sun, legs poised, waiting …

The watchful waiter

Goldenrod crab spider   Misumena vatia
Bumblebee   Bombus spp.

Full House

A range of appetites — lust to dust — happening here. The crab spider has snagged a fly for supper and a pair of blister beetles are busy making baby beetles. Meanwhile, almost out of sight, another beetle minding its own business.

Blister beetles (one of the longhorn beetles) are a staple of our roses. Judging by last summer each rose will soon house at least one.

Mating longhorn beetles with unidentified beetle

Although the beetles didn’t pay me any attention the crab spider was more alert and started to drag her meal off the petal.

Crab spider & fly and longhorn beetles

Crab sider and fly

The spider settled down after a few minutes and hauled her catch back up again.

Full house

Next time you pass a blossom take a second look — who’s living in your flowers?

Blister beetle   Lytta spp. ?
Goldenrod crab spider   Misumena vatia
Prickly wild rose   Rosa acicularis        (Provincial flower of Alberta)


Hang ‘Em High

On a trip to the desert yesterday with Jeff I found this speckled spider dangling in a clump of brittlebush. She was almost invisible among the flower stalks.

Using Jeff’s macro lens I was (sort of) able to capture her and parts of her web. A very shallow depth of field turned the clusters of sun-yellow flowers into a pale backdrop.

I handheld the big lens — it weighs more than the camera — so the focus is a tad off. But I’m pleased. Don’t know what the spider thought of it. 🙂

Who You Be?

Looking for green lily buds my eyes landed on a stem tipped with this amazing (to me) spider.

Most spiders I meet are rather plain and dark but this one shouted: Look at me! Orange. Yellow. Lime. Black spots!

BugGuide had a name: I’d found a female sixspotted orbweaver.

Unfortunately the name was about it. As for many creepy crawlers, information about their lives is lacking. Not as interesting — or as easy — to study as trees or toads or bears, I guess.

While still revelling in my “rare” find, Ma Nature hit me again. The next day I brushed against a stem in the garden and found another sixspot dangling from my finger.

A reminder that seeing is more than looking.

Sixspotted orbweaver   Araniella displicata
Green lily   Zygadenus elegans

Welcome to My Parlour

Poet Mary Howit knew a thing or three about spiders. She would have seen this dew-laden silk and dark doorway for the trap it is.

In 1829 she penned lines that became one of the most quoted warnings about false flattery:

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly, 
‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy; 

We all know what happened to the fly.

Whose parlour are you sitting in?

Wolf Spider

Padded jacket, gloves, wool scarf, balaclava, boots. I’m still cold. The north wind finds all the cracks in my clothing.

I crawl through the barbwire fence and hike to the trees. Squat on the lee side of an old poplar.

I’m not the first one here: Spread-eagled on the trunk, a wolf spider.

We sit in companionable silence.

Alone together.