Category Archives: Spiders

The Disappearing Egg Trick

I was collecting Blue Devil seed in my garden today when nearby, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a white egg approximately 10 mm diameter disappearing quickly down into a hole in the ground, like a white billiard ball into a pocket.

Now you see it…

Now you don’t!

Putting the seed aside I grabbed my camera and waited patiently until I saw the white ball reappear…. being carried by a spider!

rear end of Wolf Spider with egg sac 15 Feb 2020

The spider hung around the entrance to its burrow, holding the egg sac between its hind legs facing it towards the sun. Every time I tried to photograph this the spider retreated into its burrow. I would go away for a while and come back to find it sunning its egg sac once again. This went on from midday until 6pm!

Front of Wolf Spider at burrow entrance carrying white egg sac behind, 15 Feb 2020

From Museum Victoria website about Wolf Spiders: “Males court female through a series of leg drums and vibrations while ‘dancing’ with his forelegs. If the female is receptive she will allow him to approach. The male will then present the female with a sperm package on one of his palpal bulbs, (as spiders do not have penises) which she will store and use to fertilise her eggs. Sometime after fertilisation the female produces an egg sac by weaving a circular mat of fine silk onto which she deposits a hundred or more eggs. She then weaves silk around the eggs, draws up the sides of the mat and sews it into a silken ball. The size of this silken ball is often about the same as the spider itself. Using strong silken threads, she then attaches the egg case to the under surface of her abdomen using her spinnerets (the organs that make silk) and carries it with her, even when hunting. She incubates the eggs during the day by facing the egg case towards the sun and slowly turning it. Thirty to forty days later the eggs hatch producing up to 200 spiderlings. The spiderlings do not immediately disperse. Instead they climb up their mother’s legs and ride on her back for a few weeks, often covering her several layers deep. The spiderlings do not share any of the prey that the mother catches, and if they fall off they are not rescued. When they are ready to fend for themselves they disperse via silk strands. This maternal care of the spiderlings is unusual in the spider world”.

Winter’s tiny predators also undaunted!

A week or so ago, I posted about the tiny ants foraging on a winter’s night. But I’ve also been collecting photos of some of the tiny predators also.

Warning for arachnophobes – these are mostly spiders!

Most of the spiders I find in the bush at our place at Strangways at this time of year range from very small to miniscule. Most of the shrubs in our understorey have a number of tiny spiders hanging from webs, which can be incredibly challenging to photograph. This little one was no more than 2mm long. I like the way some of the eyes peep out in this one.

tiny spider

A miniscule spider

Slightly larger, about 5mm long, was a little orb weaver with a beautiful web draped over a gap in the bark of a Long-leafed Box.

Orb weaver

Orb weaver

Spiders of the genus Araneus are also orb weavers. I think this species is Araneus talipedatus – Slender Leaf-shaped Orb Weaver. I think the large palps on this specimen mean that it’s a male. According to the CSIRO “A Field Guide to the Spiders of Australia” this genus usually hunts by night using their orb webs.

Araneus sp? male

Male Araneus

Another specimen had small palps, perhaps a female.

Araneus sp?

Female Araneus

Dangling by single thread from the branch of a Golden Wattle was a small grey spider about 6mm long. When my light and camera got too close, it scuttled quickly up the thread to the branch. At that point I could see from its two large eyes in the middle of the front row it was a Jumping Spider. I was a bit surprised as I’d thought that Jumping Spiders were mainly daytime hunters, leaping to catch their prey. I didn’t know that they like to hang from threads at times. The people at the Australian Spider Identification Facebook page identified this one for me.

Jumping Spider - Cytaea sp

Jumping Spider – Cytaea severa

Jumping Spider - Cytaea sp

Good camouflage!

The only larger spider that I’ve seen on recent nights was this impressive Eriophora biapicata. This one was about 20mm long.

Eriophora biapicata

Eriophora biapicata

But of course, not all winter predators are spiders. Some are not even animals! It is a spectacular time of year for Scented Sundews, Drosera whittakeri. In places the 25mm diameter leaf rosettes carpet the floor of our bush, supplementing their diets by attracting, poisoning and digesting small invertebrates with the sticky secretions on their stalked leaf glands.

Scented Sundew (Drosera whittakeri)

Scented Sundew

At 3:1 macro (ie the image projected onto the camera’s chip is 3x life size) these sticky glands have an extraordinary other-worldly appearance.

Scented Sundew (Drosera whittakeri)

Scented Sundew leaf glands up close.

Hunters on the ground and a Cup Moth comes to a sticky end

Walking around the bush at night with a headlight reveals myriad tiny emerald coloured lights shining back at oneself. On close inspection, these beautiful jewels are the eyes of myriad ground-dwelling spiders.

One that I found recently had me scratching my head.

Ant-eating Spider - Habronestes sp?

Who am I?

I have the excellent “Field Guide to Spiders of Australia” by Robert Whyte and Greg Andersons (CSIRO publishing), but there are so many spiders in the book that it was a bit challenging to find the right one. I noted the interesting pattern of eyes and found a match in the eye patterns in Jenny Shields “Spiders of Bendigo” (Bendigo Field Naturalists Club).

Ant-eating Spider - Habronestes sp?

The distribution of eight eyes tells the story

The two forward-curved rows of eyes are characteristic of the Ant-eating Spiders – Zodariidae. Going back to the big book, I came to the conclusion that this one is a species of Habronestes. As the common name implies, they feed on ants. They look ant-like, make movements like ants and some species even secrete pheromones to smell like ants. I didn’t get to see this one catch and ants, but I think my light was cramping its style.

Ant-eating Spider - Habronestes sp?

Ant-eating Spider – Habronestes sp.

My lights were quite helpful for another subject. Wolf Spiders are the ones most likely to have those emerald shining eyes. Their eyes have a reflective layer which makes them brightly reflect torchlight. I found this one emerging from its burrow in amongst some thin leaf litter.

Wolf Spider - Tasmanicosa sp.

Wolf Spider – Tasmanicosa sp.

As I was watching what it would do next, it leapt forward and snatched a small moth, possibly attracted by my headlight.

Wolf Spider - Tasmanicosa sp.

Munching on a moth

Those big eyes help them hunt by night or day, grabbing prey with their strong legs. According to the Filed Guide, some species are large enough to catch reptiles and frogs and even Cane Toads. I was quite stunned when this one again jumped forward and grabbed a Painted Cup Moth, quickly pinning it down and injecting it with poison. One less Cup Moth to breed up.

Wolf Spider - Tasmanicosa sp.

A Painted Cup Moth in the process of becoming part of a Wolf Spider

 

Wattles – who doesn’t love them?

The wattles at our place at Strangways are a very reliable source of invertebrate subjects at present.

By night,  I commonly these nocturnal ants feeding on the glands on the stem of the Golden Wattles Acacia pycnantha. The glands secrete a sweet nectar which entice ants which might benefit the plant by deterring insects that would feed on the plant. I’m not sure of the species of the ant, but on Natureshare, it was suggested that it might be a Camponotus species.

A Sugar Ant (Camponotus sp) licking liquid off a Golden Wattle leaf

Ant feeding on wattle gland nectar.

Also by night, I found this fly, which I suspect is a species of Robber Fly on a Silver Wattle Acacia dealbata.

Therevid fly

A fly snoozing on Silver Wattle

By day, the wattles are still a busy place. Acacia Jewel Beetles certainly live up to their name. The live on Acacias and look like jewels. The larva of these beetles are responsible for the little piles of sawdust at the base of some wattle species and will eventually end the life of the host wattle. This one is on a Golden Wattle.

Acacia Jewel Beetle

Acacia Jewel Beetle

Another denizen of the Golden Wattle world is this tiny Lace Bug, a Nethersia species. At a couple of millimetres long, they seem to like hiding in the nooks between wattle stems. Lace Bugs mostly feed by piercing the underside of leaves of the host plant and sucking out sap.

Nethersia

Nethersia Lace Bug

On two Golden Wattles, I found many of these tiny Leaf Beetle larvae. Gastroenterological imaging seems easy in this little creatures. No x-rays, scans or endoscopes needed!

Leaf Beetle larva

Leaf Beetle larva

On the same wattle, this Jumping Spider seemed intent on prey other than the larvae.

Jumping spider - Simaethula sp.

Jumping Spider

This curious little beetle was also making its way along a Golden Wattle stem and seemed to have its rear legs hiked up most of the time – perhaps they might look like thorns?

Beetle

Beetle on Golden Wattle

Belid weevils are pretty common at the moment. They are quite elongated and according to Wikipedia are also called primitive weevils because their antennae are straight.

Belid Weevil

Belid weevil Rhinotia sp.

Also a Rhinotia species is this Two-spotted Weevil, another of the Belid Weevils. It is quite a bit bigger than the species above and has a distinctive cream spot on each wing cover, hence the name. And a confession – this one is not on a wattle.

Two-spotted Weevil (Rhinotia sp)

Two-spotted Weevil.

 

 

Melaleuca abundance, Ladybird stages, Bees and a sticky end

We have a number of Melaleuca decussata shrubs prospering in our front yard, of hardy stock acquired from Newstead Natives. They are all at present heavy with flowers.

melaleauca decussata

Melaleuca decussata flower opening.

The profusion of flowers has attracted an abundance of insect life. Large numbers of Ladybird larvae are on both branches and flowers and look vastly different to their adult forms.

Ladybird larva

Ladybird larva on melaleuca flower.

As they start to develop into their pupal stage, they start to look a bit more reminiscent of the adults, even though they will be completely transformed within their pupal case.

Ladybird pupa

Ladybird finalising a pupa, the larva just visible at the point of attachment.

Ladybird adult

Ladybird adult on a nearby Golden Wattle

The flowers have also attracted numerous bees and other pollinators. Myriad tiny sweat bees were too fast for me to photograph, but some slightly large sweat bees tarried long enough for a picture.

Sweat bee

Sweat bee on melaleuca flower, with incoming…

Other, larger bees were also visiting. I think these ones are a species of Short-tongued Bees, possibly of genus Hylaeus. Short-tongued bees are solitary and live in burrows or plant stems.

Bee - Hylaeus sp?

Hylaeus sp?

Along with the abundance of bees is the hidden danger of Crab Spiders (aka Flower Spiders). I think this one is of genus Lehtinelagia. They seem quite capable of landing some large prey by pouncing on visitors to their flowers.

Crab Spider and bee

Crab Spider with prey.

Many beetles are also feasting on the plentiful flowers.

Beetle

Beetle on melaleuca

 

Pollinators plus and some untimely ends

As flowering progresses in our yard at Strangways, the pollinators have become more active. The blue flowers of Digger’s Speedwell (Veronica perfoliata) and Black-anther Flax-lilies (Dianella revoluta) are favourite targets for many native bees. Many native bee species have a strong preference for blue flowers.

The Digger’s Speedwells are covered with tiny sweat bees, too quick for me to catch with my camera. One slightly larger bee, about 3mm long was busy digging into an unopened flower and was oblivious to the proximity of my lens.

Lassioglossum?

Bee on Digger’s Speedwell

At about 10mm long, Lipotriches bees live in burrows, but apparently large groups of males may gather on branches at night to share warmth and protection.

Lipotriches bee

Lipotriches on Black-anther Flax-lily

These are amongst the Halictid bees and carry pollen on their legs.

Strangways, Vic.

Lipotriches

In contrast, the megachilid bees carry pollen on their abdomen, far less efficient for the bee, but great for pollinating more plants.

Lasioglossum bee -Chilalictus sp.

Megachilid bee on Shiny Everlasting

Quite a few different fly species are also busy feeding on the flowers.

Fly

Fly on Shiny Everlasting

Foraging for pollen is not always safe. Flower spiders are common in our garden and are very effective hunters.

Crab Spider

Flower Spider on Shiny Everlasting

Megachilid bee, after encounter with a flower spider

Bee victim of Flower Spider

Another successful Flower Spider seemed to be losing her trophy to some enterprising ants.

Hoverfly

The dismantling of a Hover Fly

What is this wasp doing and some waterskimming

I have been watching this wasp (or a series of identical ones) visiting this same little stuck-together leaf hideout for some weeks. The wasp seems to spend a lot of time snuggled between the leaves but also comes and goes a bit. The wasp looks very like but not identical to paper wasps busily making nests under our eaves. I wonder if it’s a paper wasp and if so what business does it have here (and it doesn’t seem to be carrying off prey) or is a different species?

Wasp - Polistes sp

Wasp getting between Grey Box leaves

Wasp - Polistes sp

Checking out the intrusive fool with a camera

Insect subjects are a bit harder to find at present, perhaps due to the dry as much as the onset of autumn. But there has been plenty of Water Strider activity on our dam of late. I find these fascinating insects very hard to approach with a camera as they scoot off very quickly. I did get a few close up photos and am amazed by their other-worldly appearance.

Water Strider

Water Strider from above

Water Strider

This Water Strider was happily anchored on some debris and let me get a profile shot at last.

But the Water Striders weren’t the only invertebrates walking on the water. This little spider – perhaps a Wolf Spider from the layout of its eyes – made little forays across the surface of the water from the shore. When it returned to terra firma, it was very hard to see. In this photo, it is on the surface of the dam, a few millimetres above the bottom. I presume it may be looking for a Water Strider for tea.

Walking on water

Spider walks on water.