Yesterday Wyre Forest Study Group members braved the cold rain and ventured out into Earnwood Copse, following an ancient sunken track down through the woodland. 2 micromoths Diurnea fagella were spotted on tree trunks, as was the attractive harvestman Megabunus diadema. A Larch Ladybird and spiders Diaea dorsata were found in conifers, and down at the stream water crickets Velia caprai were swimming around on the water surface in the eddies. In open areas near the stream Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage was flowering well. But the Sallow catkins were still closed, waiting for warmth and sunshine.
This little spider (3-6mm) is very common across Britain and is found on bushes and low vegetation. The female guards her single bluish egg sac under a leaf which is usually slightly rolled with the help of some tensioning threads of silk. There are different colour forms of this spider and not all have red on the abdomen. There is a very similar species E. latimana which has a more southerly distribution and prefers open sunny areas, such as heaths and sand dunes. These 2 species were only separated in 1983 and the latter has not yet been recorded in Wyre.
This spider hides under bark of trees, gateposts, or wooden fences by day, but emerges just before dark to spin its orb web. This is a dark individual, but often the central abdominal pattern is edged with white.
This attractive little egg sac made by a species of Ero spider was found on the Great Bog. The sphere measures 3mm. across and it is suspended from moss on a thin stalk. The whitish cocoon has been covered with a tangled mass of wiry threads made from many threads of silk fused together. There is a neat hole in the side where the spiderlings had presumably emerged in the autumn. Ero spiders do not make their own webs, but act as pirates by mimicking prey in the webs of other spiders and then pouncing on the web owner!
The female crab spider Misumena vatia is seen commonly in and around Wyre, usually sitting on flower heads waiting to ambush insect prey. But I don’t spot the male (as seen here) very often, perhaps because it is much smaller than the female and darker, making it less conspicuous.
Although we’ve found this attractive harvestman at a number of sites in Wyre, this was my first record on the Worcestershire side of Dowles Brook. Two were found at different locations, and both were on oak tree trunks.
Although pseudoscorpions are widespread, they are rarely noticed because of their small size. This one is the commonest British species, its body measures 2mm. and it has 2 pairs of eyes. It was spotted walking across soil under leaf litter. Pseudoscorpions are arachnids and use their pincer-like pedipalps for feeding on small invertebrates such as mites and springtails. They inject a venom from glands in their pincers to paralyse their prey. They can produce silk from spinnerets in their jaws from which they make cocoons in which they shelter in cold weather. They live for several years.
Salticus scenicus, about 5mm long, is the most noticeable of the salticid jumping spiders. It can been seen now on sunny days, especially on house walls, fences and garden brickwork. Its variable black and white markings give rise to its common name of Zebra Spider. The males are distinguished by extra large chalicerae which are used in sparring with other males.
This Araneus alsine female was found on 10th August 2013 on one of the Wyre Forest’s wet flushes. It was in a refuge made out of a dead oak leaf that it had carefully attached to some Purple Moor Grass leaves. Its bright colour was conspicuous and the yellow mottling even resembled the seeds on the outside of a strawberry! These spiders are usually hard to find as they generally stay well hidden within their refuge.
The 4 forward-facing eyes indicate that this spider is one of the Salticidae family – the jumping spiders. This species, with its distinctive yellow palps, can be seen amongst vegetation in Wyre where it stalks and jumps on its prey. Females can be distinguished from the similar Heliophanus flavipes, by the black streaks along both sides of the femur and tibia on all 4 legs.