Monday, 29 March 2010

Love them or hate them?

On a sunny morning last week I was trying to complete a garden job and had not bothered to take my camera with me - the inevitable happened and I met these two characters. Following the recent cold weather and snow it set me wondering about their lifestyles and how they manage to survive. We complain about the cold but think about these tiny creatures - how do they survive?

Zebra Spider also known as a 'jumping spider'. It is about 6mm in length and despite the fact that it is widespread in the British Isles it is frequently overlooked because of its small size. The favoured habitat is a sunny spot on walls or rocks and is also to be found in houses!!! It stalks its prey and will tackle insects much larger than itself by jumping gaps and obstacles. It does not spin a web but in an emergency it can produce a thread to prevent itself falling should it misjudge the distance. The fascinating thing about this spider is that it has four pairs of eyes!!! The front pair are the main eyes and each pair gets smaller towards tthe rear. In my photograph you can clearly see the front pair and the second pair are less obvious.

Velvet Mite is about 3mm in length and should not be confused with the Red Spider Mite. Again because of its small size it is frequently overlooked despite being widespread in the British Isles. The larvae attach themselves to a suitable host probably a grasshopper or harvestman, feeding for several days before dropping off and burrowing underground eventually emerging as adults and living in soil and in particular bare, stoney ground scavenging for food mainly insect eggs.

These photographs are from my library - I took the vevet mite on 21st April 2008 and the zebra spider on 2nd May 2008.

Finally apologies to any arachnophobes but I stress they are harmless.
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