Megawebs at Arkansas Bend Park (Fall 2016)

Here are some pictures from this year’s megaweb at Arkansas Bend State Park in Lago Vista, Texas. Similar to last year’s web at Lake Ray Hubbard, these webs are primarily constructed through the efforts of thousands of Tetragnatha guatemalensis (common name: Long-jawed Orbweaver). Of course, there are many other species present within the webs! And also, pictures and videos just can’t do it justice, if you can make it out to the park, I highly recommend visiting the webs in person 🙂 Enjoy! Videos to come.

Pictures from a megaweb in Northern Texas (August 2015)

In Texas, it seems that heavy spring rains bring lots (I mean LOTS) of late-summer spiders. For instance, in 2007 a giant spider web popped up at Lake Tawakoni, made from the labor of thousands of Tetragnatha guatemalensis individuals (with possible help from some other species). The running hypothesis for these massive spider outbreaks can be simplified to this: heavy rains cause huge blooms in insect populations, spiders feed on these insect populations, and so, spider populations grow to larger-than-normal sizes. Although orbweavers such as T. guatemalensis do not normally cooperate in web-building (that is, they are not social spiders, per se), they may be more tolerant of others and even share web space when prey populations are large enough (i.e. competition is low). Joe Lapp (or, Spider Joe) carefully documented this outbreak, and you can read more about it (and watch some interesting videos of spider behavior), here on his blog.

I wasn’t living in Texas in 2007, and so have only heard about these occasional massive outbreaks of spiders. Although this is the stuff of most peoples’ nightmares, it is the stuff of an arachnologists’ dreams. So, when I heard that this August (2015), there was another outbreak in Northern Texas, I was very excited to be able to see it, and take a few pictures to share with others. Unfortunately a few days before I could go to the site at Lake Ray Hubbard, officials had sprayed pesticides around the area, in an effort to control mosquito populations. Thus, the webs that I saw were not as pretty and pristine as those shown on the news (see links below), and many of the spiders had died as a result of pesticide exposure. Still I got a few good images and it was really a wonder to see the sheer number of spiders that could all live in one place.

 

You can read more about the 2015 outbreak (and find some pre-spraying pictures of the webs) by following the links below:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/thousands-spiders-spin-mega-web-spans-hundreds-feet/story?id=33011151

http://dfwreport.com/spider-webs-rowlett/

 

Sometimes I take pictures of spiders with my iPhone….

Hi all,

Guess what…. I’m buying a real camera soon! This means that I’ll finally be able to be a real ento-blogger, educating the world about all the cool critters out there 🙂

In the meantime, here are a few pictures I’ve taken over the past year of spiders (and other arachnids) using my current camera (my iPhone). Enjoy!

Misconception Monday – Comic: A Spider Did Not Bite You

This comic, A Spider Did Not Bite You from Buzz Hoot Roar, is just plain fabulous.

https://i1.wp.com/buzzhootroar.com/wp-content/uploads/BeatriceSpidersLARGE-01_biggest.jpg

All credit goes to: Roar and Katie McKissick. AKA Beatrice the Biologist, McKissick is a blog and science comic that hopes to make science fun and interesting for the casual reader. Visit www.beatricebiologist.com to see more of her work, and follower her on Facebook and Twitter.

Article: The Case for Spider Conservation

A new exhibit at the AMNH seems to be reviving the public’s interest in spiders, and with that, the question of “why should we care about spiders?” is inevitable. So, the Washington Post released this nice article summarizing a lot of ways in which humans will benefit from spider conservation and research. Enjoy, and remember to be friendly to your fellow spiders 🙂

Spider of the Week: the Twin-flagged Jumping Spider (Anasaitis canosa)

This week’s spider is inspired by a beauty that I found in my shower (!) a couple weeks back. Not entirely sure why she was trying to set up camp in there, unless perhaps she was thirsty. Anyway, here are a few glamour shots, plus a couple cool facts about this species. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Anasaitis canosa from Austin, TX. This species gets its common name from the two large silvery-white spots on the top of its pedipalps.

Anasaitis is a small, currently paraphyletic genus (part of a clade with Corythalia. See: Zhang & Maddison 2013) . Most species are found in the Caribbean, but A. canosa occurs throughout the Southeastern United States.

These spiders are tiny! (Hand and knee of a ~5’8″ woman (myself) for scale).

This species often feeds on ants, as individuals live in leaf litter of forest floors. One observational study of A. canosa‘s hunting behavior found that this species will follow its prey along complex routes, and are perhaps even capable of internalizing and triangulating prey location. See the following paper for more info. It’s a very fun read! Hill 2006 Predatory pursuit of ants.

Like many other spiders, females produce egg sacs that they guard until the eggs hatch. Here’s a picture of my new friend with her newly produced sack. Hopefully I’ll get to see a few little jumper spiderlings sometime soon!

A. canosa female with her egg sac (top right).
A. canosa female with her egg sac (top right).

Last but not least, here’s a great video that makes the “twin flags” and  beautiful iridescence of A. canosa much more apparent.