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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Snowy recluse?
Location: Stratford, Connecticut
January 30, 2016 7:48 pm
I snapped this picture while dog walking last week. I was surprised to see a spider crawling across the snow. Is it a brown recluse?
Signature: Karen

Hacklemesh Weaver in the Snow

Hacklemesh Weaver in the Snow

Dear Karen,
We are going to go out on a limb and say that this Spider walking on the snow is an unusual sighting.  The pronounced pedipalps indicate your spider is a male and the large mandibles made our identification relatively easy.  The Spiders of Connecticut site has a good image of a male Hacklemesh Weaver,
Amaurobius feros, that looks like a very close match to your spider.  The site states:  “Native to Europe, it has become established in southeastern Canada and the eastern U.S., though is not limited to those regions. This robust spider is common in and around homes, but also lives under rocks, logs, in leaf litter, and other dark, humid places. Adult males are notorious for wandering in the spring.”  BugGuide also has a good matching image and the information page on BugGuide provides the common name Black Lace Weaver and states:  “A synanthropic species; found associated with humans and man-made structures.”  Spiders.Us provides this life cycle information:  “For this nocturnal spider, mating seems to take place mostly in the spring, but sometimes also in the fall. However, because this species seems to have a lifespan of 2 years or more, it is possible to find sexually mature specimens year-round, so mating may take place at any time really. Egg laying seems to happen mainly in the early summer. The female deposits eggs into a lens-shaped, silken sac about 7-15mm in diameter. Each sac can have anywhere from 60-180 individual eggs inside and it takes about 3-4 weeks before the spiderlings emerge. She stands guard over them that entire time.  Interestingly, this species is matriphagous, which means the mother sacrifices herself as food for her spiderlings. This happens a day or two after their first molt, which is roughly one week from their emergence from the egg sac. This species is considered ‘subsocial’ because, after cannibalizing their mother, the spiderlings remain together and feed communally for about a month. They overwinter in their immature stage, and most overwinter once again in their adult form.”  Our favorite bit of trivia also comes from Spiders.Us:  “Cloudsley-Thompson (1955) mentions that, in England, Amaurobius ferox is sometimes called the ‘Old Churchman’ because it can be seen scurrying around on the walls and pews of old churches before rain storms.” 

Awesome Daniel!  Thanks for the ID and the info about him.  I’ve been a fan of the site for many years and this is my first “bug of the month”, very cool!  Happy (early) spring!
Karen in CT

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Australian Inquiry
Location: Dorrigo, New South Wales, Australia
January 28, 2016 7:43 pm
Hello Bugman!
Im writing to you from Australia, the East Coast NSW. I have found this nest on my fathers property and its got us all puzzled. (Obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing to you for help!)
Its a group of small nests/cocoons (?) suspended in an olive tree. you can see by the photo that there are seven sub-dwellings dangling down, each approximately 5-7cm (2-3″) and what you can’t quite see from the picture is that there is a egg/sphere-shaped object tucked up in the mass of leaves that are all swathed in that goldy-orange web. there has been no movement noticed to or from the nests, but over the 4 weeks we have noticed that a pinprick hole appeared overnight in only one of the seven nests top…(perhaps a visiting parasite, it didn’t look like an obvious entry/exit hole for the resident in question.) Other details are the 7 nests are hollow/hard paper sounding constructions. the web has carcasses of beetles and flies stranded in it – seemingly in a certain area above which indicates they have been eaten by a resident… thats about all the information I have… I do hope you can help out, curiosity is peaked as we wait and watch!
Signature: Kind Regards, Naomi Drage

Egg Sacs of the Magnificent Spider

Egg Sacs of the Magnificent Spider

Dear Naomi,
We are really enjoying researching your request.  Our initial impression that these resembled the Egg Sacs of Orbweaver Spiders proved to be correct when we discovered the Australian Museum page on the Magnificent Spider,
Ordgarius magnificus.  According to the Australian Museum site:  “Very little is known about the courtship and mating of Magnificent Spiders, but once egg development starts, the female’s abdomen swells up quite remarkably. She constructs a series of spindle-shaped egg sacs over several nights, and each one is filled with about 600 eggs. The egg sacs are attached to a branch, and may number up to seven. They are often parasitised by wasps and flies.  The mother spider usually dies off over winter. The baby spiders emerge in late winter to early spring and disperse by ballooning.”  The site also notes:  “During the day, the Magnificent Spider hides in a retreat made by binding leaves together with silk. Preferred trees include natives such as eucalypts in dry or wet sclerophyll forests, but these spiders are also found in suburban gardens. Often the spider’s characteristic spindle-shaped egg sacs are hanging near the retreat.”  The retreat is evident in the upper right hand corner of your excellent image.  Butterfly House also has some wonderful images and notes:  “These spiders are quite amazing. They catch their prey by creating a line of silk with a sticky blob on the end, then swinging it round and round. They emit the pheromones of some female moths to attract the male moths within range of their bolas, catching the moths rather like the Incas hunted game and the gauchos of Argentina catch their cattle.”  The Find a Spider Guide has a marvelous image of the Magnificent Spider and notes:  “The two yellow cones and red marbling on the dorsal surface of the abdomen of this spider are distinctive. Also very useful for identification purposes are the egg sacs. These are very large (about 5 cm long) and spindle-shaped, and hang in groups of about five.”  Your especially fecund female has produced seven egg sacs.  Thanks so much for providing our site with this wonderful posting for our archives.  Perhaps you will be able to get an image of the Spider herself.  She is undoubtedly the “egg/sphere-shaped object tucked up in the mass of leaves that are all swathed in that goldy-orange web” you mentioned.  The information provided on Arachne.Org may help you get that image which may require a flash on your camera.  Here is that information:  “These spiders are active at night, with a simple web in trees or tall shrubs, rarely less than 2 metres above the ground. Their presence is usually indicated by a cluster of large, brown egg sacs hanging among foliage. The egg sacs are conspicuous, up to 5 cm long – many are targeted by flies and wasps that parasitise spiders’ eggs. Up to 9 sacs may be made by a spider in a season, each with several hundred eggs. The male spiders mature within the egg sac, emerging with fully functional mating organs. At night the female spins a trapeze line from twigs above an open space in the branch or foliage. She hangs from this trapeze and spins into the space a short, single line of silk with a large droplet of very sticky silk, the bolas, at its end. The upper end of the line is held by the female’s second leg. The spider emits an airborne pheromone attractive to male moths of the family Noctuidae. Vibration sensitive hairs on the spider’s outstretched legs can sense the wing beats of an approaching moth. The spider begins to swing the bolas around in a circle beneath the moth until it is hit by the sticky bolas. It flutters in tethered flight while the spider hauls it in. The moth is then bitten, wrapped and either eaten or hung. Several moths may be caught in a night.”

Egg Sacs of a Magnificent Spider

Egg Sacs of a Magnificent Spider

Thats so great, thank you. Its an impressive (or magnificent!) looking creature! I look forward to getting out there at night and seeing if we can sight it! Will send you an update photo if we manage to catch it in action :)
There has been a change to the centre egg since I emailed, its sac surroundings have coloured in patches of rusty orange. So perhaps hatching will begin shortly!
Keep up the great work, thanks again!
Naomi Drage

Update:  February 10, 2016
Hello!
So our magnificent spider has been rather productive this week, she seems to have lost two of the spindle egg sacs to parasites (pinhole at top and sunken appearance), so she gone on and made an 8th one! Her markings are stronger now than they were before, and I can imagine being bird, poking your head up the nest hole and getting a terrible fright from her faux ‘serpent head’ abdomen! a great deterrent, even enough for me to keep good distance! hope the photos are a welcome addition for your gallery.
Regards, Naomi

Magnificent Spider in her lair

Magnificent Spider in her lair

Thanks for the update Naomi,
Your Magnificent Spider really does look like a serpent.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Ed. Comment:  After reading the first three comments that arrived, we decided to upgrade this posting to the Nasty Reader tag.

Subject: Comments, Responses, & Sad Backpedaling
January 24, 2016 4:35 am
Hello,
I am a biologist and I work for the Government. I mention this only to reveal my familiarity with reading disturbing and mysterious things. I have been on your site several times hoping to see something interesting. Tonight I did, though not topically expected.  Areas now perfectly clear are:
1)  Nothing here of more knowledge or with  more information than a public high school text book.
2) That you care.
3)You attempt to deflect this by mockery and  wildly unwarranted superiority.
4) That this site does more than babysit its curator’s undernourished egos.
On reading a post , a  schoolyard comment  from another reader, your curiously condescending and marginalizing reply, the rebuke  .. and wait for it…the transparent cowardice of your denial. Perhaps you overlooked a small detail. Tiny detail really..its just that you  typed words on the page.   Hands in pockets and  think  words really, really hard next time? Just a thought.
It’s not too late for this to morph into a catalyst for positive change. Love yourself a little more and understand that cruelty is a game played in shallow water.  Ultimately you will lose. The rest of us can clearly see your feet.
Peace.
Out.
Signature: Amanda

Dear Amanda,
We do consider this website and our life both to be works in progress and we like to think that we have evolved considerably since we first began writing What’s That Bug? in 1998.  From the very beginning, we have maintained that we have no credentials to provide scientific information and we have always strived for our site to be a pop culture site that is accessible to the average person rather than to be a true scientific endeavor targeting intellectual specialists.  That there is “nothing here of more knowledge or with more information than a public high school text book” is not a problem in our mind because there is no requirement that the web browsing public possesses a college degree.  Many children visit our site and a high school text book would be quite educational.  Out of concern for younger readers, we try our best to keep a clean site, so we do not use vulgar language. 

We always defer to true experts, so we question your allegations of our “wildly unwarranted superiority.”  With that stated, your comment has us a bit confused.  There is some praise there, but it is overshadowed by your criticism of our editorial stance.  We are well aware that once content enters cyberspace, it gains a life of its own and it is nearly impossible to rescind, so we actually do carefully consider our words prior to hitting the publish button.  We are not infallible and we do not apologize for our ego.  It can be argued that anyone who enters public life in any way, be it running a blog or running for public office, has an inflated ego. 

Your comment seems to refer to a specific posting with “a schoolyard comment from another reader” and our “transparent cowardice” and what you perceive as “cruelty” on our part, but without a real citation to correspond to your criticism on how we have chosen to run our own public site, we can neither justify our stance nor clarify or defend the meaning of what we have written.  Clearly your background in biology and your position as a government employee has prepared to to analyze our psyche.  In our opinion, your focus on our use of occasional sarcasm vastly overshadows the public service we provide free of charge.

Elise from Facebook Comments.
January 24 at 6:21pm
Love your page, and appreciate that you tried to interpret that sometimes incoherent comment. The poster seems to lack both a sense of humor and a mastery of basic sentence structure. Keep doing what you do.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Stay tuned for our review

A nice gift idea for butterfly fans

A nice gift idea for butterfly fans

Subject: Butterflies Book
Website: http://www.fireflybooks.com/
November 25, 2015 1:42 pm
Hi Daniel,
I’ve been reading through your blog and there is so much amazing information here! I’ve seen bugs that I never knew existed before. What a great resource on the web.
I’m writing because I think your readers will love our new book, Butterflies. The book features some of the most colorful, spectacular and sometimes weird examples of the world’s butterflies and moths. Thomas Marent’s stunning photographs provide a close-up view of the remarkable family of insects known as Lepidoptera. The macro photography complements the enlightening text written by zoologist Ronald Orenstein, who explains the scientific curiosities of these amazing insects. Examples include such seldom-seen species as the green dragontail (Indonesia), Mexican kite-swallowtail (Costa Rica), the alpine black swallowtail (China) and European sulphurs.
Would you like a review copy? If so, send me your mailing address and I’ll send one off to you.
Best,
Caroline
Signature: Caroline Young

December 2, 2015
Dear Caroline,
The Butterflies arrived today and we haven’t opened it yet.  We cannot get past the stunningly beautiful cover
image of an amorous pair of Marbled White Butterflies (see Butterflies).  Do you have an image to accompany the posting we will be writing?

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

October 28, 2015
The staff of What’s That Bug? will be out of the office for several days and we will not be answering any mail, so if possible, save your identification requests for next week.  We will be in Austin on official business, but we hope to have a good time.  Perhaps we will even get invited to a Cave Party.

Cave Spider: Real or Halloween Decoration???

Cave Spider: Real or Halloween Decoration???

Update:  November 2, 2015
We’re back, and we had a wonderful time in Austin.  Halloween costumes on 6th Street and Rainey Avenues were spectacular, and though we were not invited to a cave party, we did try to observe the bats on the Congress Avenue “Bat Bridge”, but alas we were not treated to a mass emergence.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Gentle Readers,
The editorial staff of What’s That Bug? will be on holiday for the next two weeks.  We will not be responding to your numerous identification requests until the end of June, but because we do not want our loyal readership to go through any withdrawals, or to suffer separation anxiety, we have prepared postings to go live to our site daily during our absence.  We anticipate that upon our return, our mailbox will be stuffed with hundreds if not thousands of identification requests, and we are certain we will not be able to respond to more than a tiny fraction.  Meanwhile, please use our search engine to attempt to self identify any sightings that pique your curiosity.  We hope we will get to see Fireflies in Northeast Ohio this June.

Firefly

Firefly

Update:  June 27, 2015
We’re Back, and the Fireflies were spectacular.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination