Friday, 10 October 2014

Celebrating spiders!

Love 'em, hate 'em, or run screaming at the sight of them, it's spider season! Spiders get a bad press because a lot of people find them frightening or creepy (eight legs does seem a bit much ...), but our resident spider supporter, Kev, has taken some fantastic photos that prove spiders aren't that bad ... in fact, they can be rather beautiful! Read on to find out more about some of the fascinating eight-legged beauties local to H&H HQ. Be warned, though ... here there be spiders!

Argiope bruennichi, Wasp spider
"The Wasp spider is a member of the orb-web spider family, and whilst it can be found across much of Europe and North Africa, it’s only in the last decade that it's appeared in the UK. These photos show a female, which is much larger and more colourful than the male. In fact, they can be disconcertingly large, compared to most indigenous species; the largest of the three individuals I found was about 8cm with its legs outstretched (this feels MUCH larger when it’s only a few inches from your face!) They do bite, but they’re not poisonous to humans. 

"Being so large and colourful, they’re easily spotted, and quite a spectacular find when out walking. The females are now, and a few of them have large egg sacks – and I do mean large; the largest of the two I’ve seen locally was just under 4cm in diameter, and was being tended by a slightly smaller female.

"The webs are usually found quite low down, about 20-30cm above the ground, and have a unique
‘zig-zag’ section running vertically through them. No one knows quite what this is for, but there are several theories. It may be that it helps attract insects by reflecting UV light. It may also act as a deterrent to ward off predators; when the web is shaken, the zig-zag creates a bright, blurry shape to animals which see in the UV range."

A sea of webs ...
"These webs on the tips of grasses and bushes are mostly Garden spider webs. The name isn’t too helpful here, as Garden spiders aren’t just garden dwellers, and pretty much live everywhere. They also fall into the orb-web family, which also contains our largest by weight native species, Araneus quadrata, which, along with the similar but slightly smaller Araneus diadematus, are the ‘classic’ garden spiders, and – as you can see from the photos – they’re doing very well this year! On a dewy morning, you can see literally thousands of these webs, and they really are a spectacular sight … just make sure you keep to the paths, though!"

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