Wednesday 27 January 2016

Winter active spiders in the house

We are having an exceptionally mild winter and, although much of the time it is wet and dull, winter invertebrates respond to the prevailing conditions. While some spiders overwinter in the safely of an egg sac, or as tiny spiderlings on leaf litter and tree trunks, others winter as grown young or adults. In warm conditions, some of these species overwintering as grown spiders continue to be active through the winter months, hunting or looking for mates. This post was prompted by a silky, silvery mouse spider Scotophaeus, that I found on the kitchen ceiling in the morning (above). So, I decided to investigate which other spiders were about inside and outside of the house. All the photos taken this morning.
Pholcus phalangioides.
The Pholcus spiders in my outside toilet, which is not heated, have been much more active than it is usual in winter. Pholcus adopts a curious flat position in cold conditions, but a large individual has been changing corners and looks gravid, or indeed very well fed.
Amaurobius similis with centipede prey
 In a crack at the bottom of the toilet door lives an Amaurobius similis. A couple of weeks ago I watched as a large springtail, Orchesella villosa, tripped one of her woolly silk lines. The spider sprung out like lightning out of her retreat, but the springtail, making use of its wonderful jumping abilities, escaped unharmed. Today the spider was luckier. I noticed she was out, which is unusual, and looking closer I saw she was busy with prey: a centipede, likely Cryptops hortensis.
What other spiders are out and about?
Inside the kitchen window, a mid-size garden orb-weaver Araneus diadematus, hung from her web. They occasionally wander inside and live on small plant midges or drosophila from the fruit bowl. Females have occasionally reached full size inside the house and attracted males.
A poor shot of an Araneus diadematus inside the house.
Zygiella x-notata legs visible touching its web.
On the sheltered top corners of windowsills you might find Zygiella x-notata, the missing sector spider, in a silky retreat, often next of her egg sacs and the empty wrapping, one of her front legs touching the guide thread to the center of her web. At night she comes out and sits in the middle of her web. They are active regardless the weather, building their new webs early in the morning even in hard frost.

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