My lake

My lake

Monday, 28 July 2014

Now I know why they are called Nursery Web Spiders!

Pisaura mirabilis, the Nursery Web Spider, is a common spider in my garden. Despite many colour variations they are the only spider that looks like this so ID is very easy. However it wasn't until last year that I finally saw one carrying her egg sac, and this year I have also only seen one with an egg sac. But suddenly this month I've been coming across the nursery webs! The female spider places her egg sac in vegetation then spins a thick web around it to keep the spiderlings safe inside whilst she keeps guard. I don't know how long mum keeps guard for because of course I don't know when she spun the web, but she leaves before the spiderlings leave the safety of the web several days later. Most of the webs I saw in early July but I also found another one just recently.

More info about Nursery Web Spiders on André Bon's site here (in English).

Female carrying her egg sac seen in 2013.

And the only one I've seen with an egg sac this year.

The first web was in a Hydrangea. You can see the egg sac behind the blue flowers
and a few of Mum's legs are visible at the top.

Mrs Pisaura mirabilis on the nursery web with
legs held in the typical position for this species.

I found a couple more on Cranesbill Geraniums. Here you can see the babies.

The second one with an upset (I think) Mum because I'd been watering before I noticed her!
I've never seen them with their legs drawn up like this before - their characteristic position is
to hold the front 2 legs on each side straight out and together.

The best nursery web I found was down by the pond on a Knapweed plant.

You can see how she's built her web around the stem of the plant,
then she'd tethered it to another stem for extra protection.
The dark blob beneath the Knapweed bud is the mass of spiderlings.

Babies - this photo was taken two days after the one at the top when Mum was guarding them.
She'd already left by this time.

A few days later and the babies are starting to disperse around the web.

I then wanted to try to get a closer shot but my SX50 camera can't focus that easily so I put my hand behind to force it to close focus, when all of a sudden..........

The babies just shot down that web and out into the open!
It certainly made it easier to get photos of them.

They didn't come on me - not that I would have been bothered by teeny things like this but
I wonder why they did this. I have to assume my movement spelled danger for them
and they all ran like hell!

Now my next 'most want to see' in the spider department is a wolf spider carrying her babies on her back. I see tons of them carrying their egg sacs so it's about time! :-)

Friday, 25 July 2014

Female glow-worms, a snail invasion and RIP Snowy

Last night was stormy, loads of thunder rumbling all around and a fair bit of lightning, some rain (but never enough for my garden!) yet still the kind that wets you. The electricity kept flickering on and off too. For one reason or another (actually a very late dinner because I hadn't realised the savoury courgette cakes I was making needed to go in the oven for a whole hour; five more courgettes down which has not dented the mountain one bit, but I digress) my OH was late getting out to shut the hens in for the night. He then came in to tell me that poor Snowy, our Light Sussex, aged 7 1/2 and still laying occasional eggs this summer, was dead outside in the run, and the two young red hens were in a state of panic and were too scared to pass her to go into the shed. So out I went with him by torchlight and we put Snowy in the barn, sorted out the hens and I went back inside. He then came back and yelled at me a second time to tell me that Glow-worms were a-glowing over by the old septic tank! 

So of course out I went armed with a torch and camera, in the drizzle. A more serious photographer would have sensibly taken a tripod but I really wasn't in the mood, nor am I either serious or sensible late in the evening, just ready to put my feet up in front of the telly! I know I'd planned to go looking for them this week, just not during a thunderstorm! There were three of them all in that area and a walk around afterwards revealed one more. They seemed to like the rough grass mixed with ivy, nettles and goodness knows what around the old septic tank. Needless to say my photos are all handheld, despite some very slow shutter speeds, but I'm not trying to win any photo competition and I think they are reasonable enough that you'll get the picture!

Mrs Glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca) glowing. I'd forgotten just how bright they glow!

Yes I know it's blurry but this was with just a little bit of torchlight.

Using flash, you can see her helmet like the male,
yet the rest of her is very similar to the nymph.

And I hadn't realised it was the inside of the lower abdomen that did the glowing.

Loved how she was just hanging off a blade of grass.

There's a little buggy imitating her.... not sure what it is,
maybe a moth as close up it doesn't look fly like.

As for the snails, all the time we were walking around I couldn't believe how many large snails were out in the damp - we had to shine our torches in front of us because they were everywhere, all over the gravel and the grass and then I noticed them all up the wall beside the potting shed door. I've never seen anything like it in our 10 years here - we have never had a slug or snail probem because we have very sandy soil.... but this year they seem to be living in my veg patch even when the weather is hot and dry.... and now I know they are living absolutely everywhere else! God knows how this happened but I hope they bugger off soon!

Ewwww! Surely that sandy lime mortar wouldn't feel nice to slither over!

Bleagh! Well, actually, it's less bleagh than a slug. But they still eat my seedlings.
Oh OK, they are not bad, but it's bleagh when you tread on one by mistake. Crunch!

Finally as a tribute to Snowy, here's a picture I took of her back in late winter when I needed some subjects to practice on during a photography course I took.

Snowy.

My previous post shows the male Glow-worms and larvae in case you missed it. Just scroll back or click the 'Older Posts' button.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Glow-worms

This is a short-ish post showing one of the reasons I went out at dusk armed with torches last week. As well as finding those Forest Bugs that I showed in my previous post I sort of found what I'd been looking for! I was also interested to see if moths were attracted to torch light - well it seems they aren't really, only one landed on my torch but I could see there were plenty around. I didn't see a lot else other than a roosting Magpie who woke up and then woke the rest of his family and they all started cackling up in the tree tops. And the Tawny Owls were hooting away but we can hear them indoors anyway and are used to their sound at various times of the year.

Having found a Common Glow-worm nymph in the veg patch back in the spring, I'd been dying to get out and see if I could find any adults. I'd seen some females glowing after dark at my previous house many moons ago and that was pretty cool, but of course I don't have photos from back then. I didn't see any females glowing but when I went to check on the large torch that I'd laid in the grass for a while, blow me down if I didn't find a male Glow-worm on it! I have checked the different species and I think this is the Common Glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca, although there is another species very similar called Lamprohiza splendidula which is smaller, and has two clear patches in the head shield over the eyes, but I can't see that in any of my photos. 

Male Glow-worms are attracted to light.

I had to get it onto my hand to take photos, otherwise I found they just went down into the grass thatch, not trying to hide but were too hard to photograph like that. It seemed perfectly happy to wander about on my hands and fingers. I seem to be forever showing bugs on my hands these days, I guess it's just a convenient place to put them. :-)

Common Glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca).

Then after I'd had my walk around (accompanied by 3 cats, which I was pleased about as I am scared of the dark and it was less spooky with them about, even if they did scare off any interesting critters that may have been in the vicinity!) I found another one! I know this isn't the same one... unless he got a white marking on him somehow in less than half an hour. I think it's a bit of bird poo or something as I don't see any images of Glow-worms that show markings like this.

Common Glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca).

So this week I'll attempt to stay up late and go out again and see if there are any females still glowing. Apparently the females glow for up to 2 hours after dusk during June and July, so here's hoping.

I've shared these before but here are the pictures of the nymph I found, which by the way eat snails, so are a perfect critter to have in the garden!

Common Glow-worm nymph (Lampyris noctiluca).

Common Glow-worm nymph (Lampyris noctiluca), showing its amazing mouth parts.