Garden Safari – Part 2: Spiders

Yesterday’s post covered the bees and hoverflies that Matt and I had found in his garden on Friday 1st. In this post I’m looking briefly at the spiders we saw … but first a little addendum on the bees.

We had seen Bombus pratorum – Early bumblebee – workers, but when I popped out into my own garden in the sunshine first thing this morning there were a number of the males on the wing, nectaring on the raspberry plants that are now in flower. I’ve posted comparison shots here to show the differences – top two are the female worker, bottom two the male:

Sizes don’t show well with nothing to scale them against, but both are about the same size. Note the male has the extra yellow stripe across the join between thorax and abdomen, and also yellow hairs on the face – as do several other male bumblebees. The female is also neater; in fact the male is, frankly, a flying fluff-ball and this stands out in the field to me.

So, on to the spiders. I promised myself that I would start to try and get into the arachnids this year, but like all new orders it’s a bewildering world until you find some similarities between species which start to bring them into the genus groups. We photographed four, as follows, though there were more than this about, and thanks to people on Twitter, IDs followed.

This is Pisaura mirabilis, one of the nurseryweb species. Although it would blend beautifully in dry, straw-coloured grass, on the lush green it stood out. It’s swollen abdomen made me wonder if it is about to lay eggs – photos in the field guides tend to show a much slimmer spider.

The second one was Tetragnatha sp., the exact species not clear, though either T. extensa or montana.

Tetragnatha sp

Tetragnatha is one of four genera of the Tetragnathidae – the Long-jawed Orbweb spiders – called the ‘stretch spiders’. It’s not hard to see why, and when they are ‘stretched’ out along the stem of a plant of some sort they must almost disappear.

A second genus of the Tetragnathidae is Metellina – with three, common, orb web spider species – and the spider below comes from here.

Metellina sp

It looks to me like either M. segmentata or M. mengei which are visually very similar. My guess is mengei based on the most usual time of year to see the adults, which Bee, Oxford and Smith (2017) report as being spring and early summer, rather than late summer and autumn for sementata.

The final one is perhaps the most interesting. It’s a tiny spider, but bright red, making it stand out against the pale green of this grass head.

Nigma puella

Thanks to some expert advice from Twitter users, I’ve managed to find out a little and it’s likely to be a male Nigma puella. Until recently, Nigma was a genus with two British species – N. walckenaeri and N. puella. Both are not common, puella described as ‘nationally scarce’ by Bee et al, but showing distribution along the S. Dorset and E. Devon coast. Walckenaeri is yet to be found in Devon and looks like it’s more frequent in late summer. However, a third species – N. flavescens – has recently turned up with two records in Kent, offering the enticing prospect that future sightings might be important records! The males are identical visually, so other than the massive likelihood that it’s puella I can’t be entirely sure … though the females differ and finding one of these would clinch it.

This is one of the things I love about exploring insects, spiders, birds etc. Even as a rank amateur there is the chance of something interesting turning up, especially with creatures that are little researched and studied. Ask my nephew, who, at aged 10 has just turned up the first Grey Birch Moth ever recorded in West Cornwall. Fab!

Reference:

Bee, L., Oxford, G., & Smith, H. (2017). Britain’s Spiders: A Field Guide: Princeton University Press.

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exeprattler

Exmouth resident; keen, slightly naive, birder; moth novice.

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