Nursery web spiders are easy to recognise, they often have a pale line on their cephalothorax and parallel lines along the body. They are quite variable in the tone and colour of the lines, as you can gather from the individuals shown here.
Pisaura mirabilis basking in typical posture
Food for sex and feigning death
The reproductive behaviour of Pisaura mirabilis has attracted the attention of many researchers. When adult, males will catch an insect, wrap it in silk and search for females. It is thought this behaviour is elicited by the male coming across female silk drag lines, possibly impregnated with pheromones. When they find a female they present her the gift in their chelicerae while raising his body and front legs and palps (watch this video of the approach). If the female accepts the gift they will mate. Males without a gift have reduced chances of mating with females, but sometimes males 'deceive' females by wrapping some insect carcass or a piece of debris to offer the female. Presenting a silk wrapped gift increases the chances that mating will be completed before the females grab the parcel and run away. If the female shows aggression, the male can immediately become immobile (death feigning), while still holding his present. When the female renews her interest in the parcel the male comes back to life and resume mating.
Male Pisaura mirabilis in another typical resting position. Note its swollen palps.
This male has captured a greenbottle fly.
During the summer, in the lower level of meadows and other open, sheltered places, amongst grass and wildflowers, you might be lucky to come across a female Pisaura mirabilis carrying her large, white egg sac. She holds the egg sac on her chelicerae and palps until the spiderlings are ready to hatch, and despite her long legs, she looks like is walking on tiptoes with her cumbersome load. Once the young start to hatch, she loosens the egg sac and attaches it to a blade of grass. She then builds her nursery tent around the egg sac, where the spiderlings will reside for a while.
Female Pisaura mirabilis with fresh egg sac. Compare with the texture of the older egg sac on the top shot, note that the female on the top shot has a piece of egg sac covering between her chelicerae, so she might well have already loosen up the covering of the sac in preparation for building her nursery.
Nursery web with spiderlings. The spiderlings will form balls like in Araneus diadematus, and the balls also 'explode', with the spiderlings running away from each other when disturbed.
A female standing guard by her nursery web. The spiderlings will disperse after their second moult. Later in the summer, she may lay another batch of eggs.