Friday, April 15, 2016

A donation from Ron DePaepe

            Ron has sent some photos and descriptions of his spiders. I love getting this stuff!

1. A spider commonly known as a bridge spider, or grey cross spider, depending on who you talk to. Proper name is Larinioides sclopetariusI prefer the common name of bridge spider, since I see them on or around man-made structures almost exclusively. I found this one in my yard at my former house and captured it in a large empty jar to get several photos. Her overall size was about an inch body length. She was likely not quite fully grown. After admiring her for several minutes, and photographing her from various angles, I released her exactly where I found her. She didn’t seem to be much the worse for wear, as she created a web nearby and remained in my yard for several days before disappearing. I assumed she was likely eaten by a bird.

2. This is a great shot of a member of the Theridiidae sp. Known as the common house spider or American house spider. This pretty female lived for a long time in the doorway between the kitchen and living room of my former house and one day I noticed there were babies. I took a lot of photos of her and her new brood of youngsters, and of all the photos, this one turned out best. At my new house, these spiders aren’t in the house, but seem to thrive in my garage. I found a dozen there one day while trying to straighten it up. As I saw it would disturb their webs, I finally gave up trying to clean the garage. Anything to get out of work. 

 2. One of the several adult female Wolf spiders I captured that produced egg sacs, which resulted in the six month experience of raising several hundred infants from three different females. The female I told you about in our chat, the one that I remember watching make an egg sac, was never a mother while in my care, having laid infertile eggs. Known as the Hogna helluo, they have been recently been reclassified as Tigrosa helluo. Same spider, same name, same species, just an update for whatever reason the arachnologists have. It’s all a part of the taxonomy game, I suppose

Friday, March 11, 2016

Arachnophobia - a reader responds

Ulla Jessen wrote to me from Denmark about recovering from arachnophobia. I was so delighted I just had to share it here (with permission, of course). Ulla wrote:

I am currently reading your book on spiders. It is truly one of the most exciting books I have ever read.

Like you, I suffered from arachnophobia for many years, until one day, at the age of about 30, when I decided that it was too ridiculous and I started to observe the spiders instead. 
I started with watching a 45 minute film on our newly acquired colour television. I sat right in front of the screen with my heart pounding for the whole time. It did work, now it was easier for me to go up to a small spider and just look at it.

Anyway, it went from there to being totally fascinated by the beautiful creatures.

Just like you I have given some of my spiders names. I had one in the kitchen when I first met my husband. He saw this black thing in the top corner of the kitchen and asked if I knew I had a spider there. I said yes, that is Herbert and he lives there. This was before I knew that it probably was a female. My husband to be was not too pleased and asked a few times is Herbert had to live with us and I told him "Love me and love my spider, Herbert stays". (After 28 years I am still married to the same man). 

My "mission" in life is now to teach my grandchildren not to be afraid of spiders. It seems to be working, just a bit. Two of my granddaughters of 14 years of age have actually sent me photos of spiders.

I have a friend who is rather afraid of spiders. She actually went with me to a large exhibition of live spiders in Copenhagen a couple of years ago and it has changed her attitude towards spiders. Her granddaughter sees a spider and asks her grandmother "Should you not take a picture of it and send it to Ulla?"

Even by husband is now able to see a spider without calling me to remove it. He even puts up with me reading aloud from your book at night in bed.

I have been looking on YouTube at videos about spiders. One thing that really annoys me is that although they seem to want to teach you not to be afraid of spiders, they still present them with horror-film music and dramatic voices like this is something to be afraid of. 

Here is a link to my video on recovering from arachnophobia. It has been viewed over 32,000 times so hopefully it may have affected someone positively.

Confronting the spiders

Ulla asks about good videos about spiders - I'd love to know more and add them to this blog. Please send me suggestions!

Ella wrote:
Do you know of any documentaries about spiders where they present the animal in a normal way, with love and admiration? 

I don't suppose I'd ever get to Australia, but if I did, I would love to see your forest of white cutlery.

Anyway, forgive my ramblings. I just felt the urge to share my little story and to tell you how much your book means to me, and as I said, if you know of any good videos of spiders, I'd love to know.

Thank you, Ulla!

Reader suggestions: 

Thanks Rachael! The peacock spiders:

Thank you, Kathleen, for pointing to the sand spider video:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I always love the black house spiders

Unlike the orb weavers who make a stunning show in summer then disappear, my black house spiders are a constant presence.

Please meet Lily, my favourite this year. She lives behind an outdoor art work of a lily hanging on the verandah, hence her name. Lily is a black house spider, Badumna insignis.

When I first met her, Lily was quite large in the abdomen. (Spiders don't mind you mentioning this.) She was gravid, ready to lay her eggs.

She appeared less often, but did come out for dinner one night.

A few weeks later, and her babies emerged with her. They only hung around a few days and were gone.

If you click on the photo below and look closely, you can see that her fangs work inwards like pincers. She is a 'modern' spider, an araneomorph. The so-called 'primitive' spiders like the trapdoors, Australian funnel-webs, tarantulas and mouse spiders, have their fangs pointing down so they raise their bodies to strike. They are known as mygalomorphs. You can also see her little claws which she uses to hold onto the web. Gorgeous creature!

No more photos. Good night.

Monday, December 7, 2015

My garden orb weavers

This is the first of the introductions to the regulars for this summer. I have found two garden orb weavers this year, both Eriophora pustulosa (family Araneidae). These are distinguished by three little bumps on the end of their abdomens.

Erik-Rose is on the rose bushes. She is brownish. Erio-birch is on the white-barked birch tree. She is much paler. They vary colour greatly depending on where they rest during the day. Despite intense searching, I haven't managed to find the resting place for either. Yet!

They are both still very small, less than a centimetre in body length. My hope is that both will make it to adulthood. Well, they've got this far. I shall keep you updated with their progress. But first, their photos. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Erik-Rose is hanging in the typical pose in the web. They always hang face down.

She wasn't impressed with my light and flash and presence. She pulled in her web and wound it up and headed back into the rose bush. She then sat and ate the ball of silk. She couldn't afford to waste all that protein! I have seen this before. I shall have to be more subtle. This is a moment after she pulled in the web - it happened very fast. She's heading off.

This is Erio-birch looking very like every Eriophora. She's actually much paler than Erio-rose, but it doesn't show here. She's also much less concerned about my presence.

Tonight, Erio-birch had moth stew for dinner.

The other regulars include two black house spiders, one American common house spider and one little hump-backed spider. More about them next time! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Back in action

I have submitted the manuscript for my next book The Memory Code to my publisher, Allen & Unwin, and can finally get back to blogging my precious spiders.

I have been delighted with the number of comments on this blog and emails I have received, many with photos and even videos. A number of American correspondents are writing with stories of golden orb weavers (Nephila sp.) and yellow and black spiders (Argiope sp.) and their golden egg sacs as the spider season in the US is drawing to a close. Ours is just starting here in Australia.

Poppy has sent me a number of videos and photographs of Charlotte, the golden orb weaver who is almost certainly one of the species Nephila clavides. The videos are amazing as Charlotte is tossed around in the wind but still catches the grasshopper Poppy has tossed into her web. Poor grasshopper! Like Poppy, I do feel sorry for it, but such is the way of the world.

Here are some stills from Poppy's video. I think there are two Charlottes. Poppy may explain more!

The University of Florida has a great page on Nephila clavides - just click on this sentence.

This is a link to the blog I wrote about the golden orb weavers in Castlemaine, Nephila edulis, a few years ago. 

I would be delighted to receive more photos. I love getting comments. And I shall soon add photos and stories of my spiders. Just comment below and I will tell you how to send photos.

Meanwhile - it is good to be back!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I still love my spiders but ...

[updated November 2015]

This blog is temporarily silent. I still adore my spiders and go out and watch them every night.

The research that I did for my PhD and now as an Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe University, Melbourne, has taken over my life. The book of that research has been published by Cambridge University Press. It's all about the way non-literate cultures memorise huge amounts of rational knowledge and why this explains the purpose of monuments such as Stonehenge, the great houses of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and the mound site of Poverty Point in Louisiana. I have just been awarded an Arts Victoria grant to write about my research for the general reader expanding on the memory methods and the archaeology sites.  That book will be published by Allen & Unwin in Australia in July 2016. Atlantic Books will publish the UK edition.

Please come and read more on my website and blog.

So I now have far less time for spiders than I would like. But I still adore them and watch them all I can.  I will be back blogging my spiders when the new book is finished.

Lynne Kelly

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My smart little orb weaver

A new spider season. As summer starts, the webs are getting bigger, and there are lots of them. Last season there were few orb weavers around. After a wet winter this year, there are plenty. Three of the orb weavers I am checking every night are three different species. I have become extremely fond of the little spider in this blog, who I've watched grow from a speck to near her full size, a body length of about 10 mm.

Intelligentsia is a clever little spider. She built her web across the door into my Garret, the studio where I write. I have 'trained' orb weavers before - moved the main structural lines which were in the wrong place a few times, and the spider seems to get the idea. I did the same with Intelligentsia. For a month or so now, she has built her web with a curved 'doorway' for me just high enough to go in and out with ease. Unfortunately, husband Damian forgot to duck last week and ruined Intelligentsia's web. Fortunately, as he bumbled into her real estate during the day, she was safely tucked away in her retreat.
[Click on the images for full size.]

Intelligentsia has the bumps on her abdomen, front and rear, typical of her species, Eriophora pustulosa. Her underside has the black patch which also distinguishes the species. This is the view I get as I leave the Garret. 

Intelligentsia comes out each night, repairs her web (or rebuilds it if some silly man has forgotten to duck). She lives the usual active life of a spider, including catching, killing and and devouring insects.

During the day, Intelligentsia retreats to a patch of old web from a long-gone cobweb spider in a gap in the verandah roof. One leg is always in touch with her orb web, just in case dinner arrives early.

I'll introduce the other two orb weavers in the next blog. And keep you informed on Intelligentsia's life.