Friday, 26 August 2016

A Walnut orb weaver

It's not every day I find a new species of spider in the garden, so I was pleased this afternoon, when opening the garden gate I disturbed a young Walnut orb weaver, Nuctenea umbratica (above). It crawled up and hid in a crack between the planks of wood. This is a large and distinctive species, the females can reach 14 mm.
umbratica means 'of the shadows' in latin, which refers to their liking for dark cracks and crevices, where they hide during the day, aided by their wide and flattened abdomen. When discovered, they are often crouching in a characteristic position, which is the only explanation I can see to another common name: 'toad spider'. They can be very dark, almost all black, but this individual shows the wavy leaf-shape pattern on the abdomen, surrounded by a pale rim and pinkish sides with annulated legs. They like dry microhabitats, including wooden structures, like fence posts, dead wood, window frames (e.g. in birdwatching hides), greenhouses, and cliffs. They are mostly nocturnal, they emerge as it gets dark and make their stout, large orb web, of a similar shape to that of its relative Araneus diadematus, although they can also sit on their web during the day. Their tattered webs can be useful to detect the spider when found in suitable habitats during the day.
 Males peak in July and August, while females are found year round. I wonder if being a very large spider, like the garden spider Araneus diadematus, females may take two years to reach maturity.
Although I might have overlooked it due to its retiring habits, I keep finding it more often in recent years.
Adult N. umbratica in a window frame of a hide. (11/7/16, Tophill Low)
One of several N. umbratica adult female inside bird hide (11/10/15) Alkborough Flats.
A fresh egg sac found inside the same hide with several N. umbratica. It looks very similar in colour, shape and size to an Araneus diadematus egg sac.
An adult female N. umbratica sitting on her web during a dark November day inside a greenhouse (Thwaite Botanical Gardens, 3/11/15).

1 comment:

www.superiorpaper.com said...

Woho this is some really new information for me, would love to know more about these species, need to google them. Thanks for sharing it with us