I am by nature an arachnophobe, and on the off-chance you are, too, I am starting off with a pretty tame Miss Muffet picture, so you still have a chance to turn back before you get to the spider pictures.
One of my former editors insisted we did not print big pictures of spiders in our morning paper as he did not want people turning the page and choking over their porridge (or curds and whey).
Why do I dislike spiders? Who knows? Read this blog post – A gentle introduction to my spiders… unless that was what pointed you to this gallery in the first place.
Although I shudder at spiders, I am also fascinated by them and in 2010 I vowed to try to identify them and photograph them instead of stamping on them.
I did have a bit of a setback the other week when spring-cleaning the garage. Sorry, I cannot tell a lie, I did squish a couple.
However, I then got back on track when I saw movement on the carpet one bright morning and realised it was a woodlouse spider (Dysdera crocata). These big (but not huge) red-legged things REALLY made me cringe when I was a child, but this time I found an old drinking glass and trapped it while I went for my camera. Although they are soft-focus, I am quite pleased with the pictures…
Then a few days later I managed to snap a tiny zebra spider (Salticus scenicus) on a sunny wall, so I feel I am back on track and it’s time to publish my finds…
To help me in my inquiries, I have bought a wonderful little laminated fold-out chart from the Field Studies Council. Only £2.75 and I would recommend it and all the other guides to nature available. I usually pick up one or two from the shop when I am visiting tourist attractions such as gardens, nature reserves and ancient monuments.
I have also found this Eurospiders website very useful.
I am trying to identify as many spiders as I can and take pictures of them. Here are my successes in alphabetical order by Latin name. If you are an expert, please advise me if you think I have got any of them wrong…
Amaurobius similis or fenestris – lace webbed spiders
I knew I was making headway in my phobia battle when the above Amaurobis (I think it’s the same one) walked through the back door and I resisted the opportunity to splat it. Out with the glass again and a piece of card and I managed to get some more pictures – although not very good this time – before I released the spider in the garden…
Araneus diadematus or garden spider
Araneus quadratus or four-spot orb-weaver
Dictyna arundinacea or mesh webbed spider
Dysdera crocata or woodlouse spider
Enoplognatha ovata or comb-footed cobweb weaver
I spotted the spider above just as I was leaving for work, so grabbed my camera and did my best, although it wouldn’t keep still (not surprising as I was picking it up by its web-line and dragging it back on to the window ledge again and again). It’s slightly out of focus, but I am pretty sure it is an Enoplognatha ovatus.
Linyphia triangularis or sheet web spider
Metellina segmentata or orb web spider
The picture above was taken with my phone, as I had no camera to hand. It is a Metellina segmentata making a web on the outside door of the building where I work. I spotted it hanging around as I was on my way back into the office at lunchtime on August 26, 2011.
Pardosa amentata or wolf spider
It was 10pm on July 30, 2011, when I spotted this spider on the bathroom wall. The improvement in my phobia is demonstrated by the fact that although I was barefoot and scantily clad, I reached for my camera, not a slipper to splat it.
At the time I thought it was a small and still growing house spider (Tegenaria gigantea) and maybe I had finally overcome my biggest scary challenge. But no, when I checked against a guide later I decided it was a wolf spider, Pardosa amentata. And you will see it has only seven legs. It was about half the size of this image.
When I thought I had a decent picture, I gently grabbed the spider with some tissue paper and dropped it in the loo, where it was still alive and waving when I last saw it and flushed it away…
Then on August 26, 2011, I brought in a Betterware catalogue from the garage and put it on the kitchen worktop. And then I saw a big black spider on it. Under my current regime of photographing spiders instead of splatting them, I didn’t flinch too much and got my mug to put over it. Then I realised it was INSIDE the plastic bag. So I carefully carried it out to the yard table and kept it trapped while I took pictures. It was, I believe, another Pardosa amentata wolf spider. But this time, with those big palps, perhaps it’s a male?
Pholcus phalangioides or daddy-long-legs spider
On October 11, 2011, I lifted the lid on a wheelie bin not used for months and it was swarming with daddy-long-legs spiders and hundreds of their wispy babies.
Many of the fragile little things were already crushed and my using the bin didn’t help, but there was still plenty of movement when I took these pictures a little later. Maybe most of the dead ones were actually moults? Do they go through ecdysis at such an early stage in their lives?
Pisaura acoreensis or nursery web spider
This small spider (about 1.5cm long, minus the legs) was startled when I took a bag of bird food out of a storage bin. I think it is Pisaura acoreensis, a nursery web spider.
Pisaura mirabilis or nursery web spider
Salticus scenicus or zebra spider
Segestria senoculata or tube-web spider (possibly)
Steatoda grossa or cellar spider, cupboard spider, false widow
I spotted this lovely shiny black spider on a garage wall first thing in the morning on October 10, 2011, and took the pictures with my phone, so they are not bad, really.
I searched on the internet for an identification and went through many options:
Zelotes latreilli? I don’t think so, that’s too thick-set and greyish almost hairy, with no brown sheen.
Euryopis episinoides? I don’t think so, that’s too wasp-waisted.
Dipoena torva? Again, is that too wasp-waisted? Also mine has no trace of striped legs…
Steatoda bipunctata? That’s too pale in colour.
Steatoda grossa? Yes I think that’s it, although in some pictures it is too light and patterned and in some too dark and blue-black…
Hooray! On April 28, 2012, I finally “captured” a giant house spider, Tegenaria gigantea…
It was unexpected, too! At this time of year you don’t see many spiders. It has been a cold and wet April and I was just taking a cloth bag of new lily bulbs out from the garage into the yard to plant them in a pot. The spider dropped off the bag and on to the wooden table.
I was SO pleased with myself. I genuinely didn’t have that usual back-of-the-neck “aaargh” feeling but genuinely thought oh, that’s interesting! I ALMOST touched it, just to show I could.
It moved slowly and then dropped through a slat in the table and landed on the wet ground of the yard. Where it just stood still, for ages. It gave me the chance to grab my camera, although the pictures aren’t very good as it was so well camouflaged.
All I can say is that it is just as well I didn’t see this “giant house spider” in the house, or my attitude would have been very different and I probably would have splatted it. I haven’t seen one indoors for years – clearly because they are living in the garage.
Did it survive the cold, wet weather? Did it sneak back into the garage? I’ve no idea, but an hour or two later it had eventually moved away from the spot where I photographed it.
Tetragnatha or long-jawed orb-weaver
Xysticus cristatus or crab spider
On August 1, 2011, in very bright, hot sun, I went to Badbury Rings in Dorset. I didn’t realise I had caught this picture of a crab spider on clover until I looked at my pictures later. A bit annoying, as I would have tried for a better shot if I had seen it.
I think it’s a Xysticus cristatus, probably female, rather than the more delicate Misumena vatia crab spider. I think both come in a range of colours, or maybe even they can change colour to suit their background. Certainly this one is quite pink like the clover.
I spotted this at 6am, making its orb web by the front door. But it was in silhouette in the bright sun and I never had a chance to see it again properly. However, by the shape I think it is a Zygiella x-notata.
Then on September 2, 2011, there was a spider inside a window frame. This isn’t it, but when I knocked it out through the fanlight, it disturbed this Zygiella’s orb web, and the owner came out for its close-up…
I’m now starting to call this spider Ziggy – and here he/she is again, bundling a fly and sucking it dry on September 8, 2011…
Then there is the harvest spider or harvestman, Phalangium opilio…
I leave this until last as the harvestman is not a spider. It has eight legs, but its body is like a single bead, unlike the separate head/thorax and abdomen of spiders. You might say it has no waist.
It also does not make webs and does not produce venom. Read a lot more about harvestmen on the UK Safari blog…