The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Tag Archives: Spider

Photo Friday: Terrifically uncooperative jumping spider

Ever since falling madly in love with the gorgeous big jumping spiders in Florida, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a native Phidippus to photograph.

Yesterday, during a lab that took our students to the outdoor horticultural center on our campus, a student collected a lovely immature male jumping spider from a row of peppers, popped it in his sandwich bag, and brought it to the instructor.

I was like, YOINK.

Ever since, I have been taking breaks from my work about every hour, trying desperately to get a decent shot of this incredibly bold and active little guy, who had no interest whatsoever in being cooperative.

I finally got one that works for me:

Phidippus sp.

Handsome little devil, no?


Oh, what the heck, here’s one more:

Phidippus sp. 2

(This lovely specimen was collected by Joseph Perreault).


I have to apologize for the lack of posting lately. I am feeling rather guilty about it, but, as my advisor (who, ironically, is blogging/tweeting like a boss right now) says, “you’re doing a PhD”. Yeah, I am, and sometimes the work has to come first.  😦

Photo Friday: Suck it, arachnophobia

This installment of PF is a bit of a deviation, in that you’re getting VIDEOgraphy instead of PHOTOgraphy. It’s nothing spectacular, but at least I’ve followed Alex Wild’s macrovideo tip #1: use a tripod. I hope that’s ok.

I made this very silly video early this week. I’m actually planning on using this and other footage to make a much more sensible “Arachnid Anatomy” video to add to my collection of zoology lab vids.

You may recall a certain post from the fall of 2010, in which I described a harrowing and hair-raising encounter with The Biggest Spider in Ever (i.e., Araneus gemmoides, the cat-faced spider).  I survived that dramatic event, and I hadn’t come across that particular species of orb-weaver again until this year. We’ve actually had two simply MASSIVE females living on our property all summer – one under the second-story eaves and one under the roof of our woodshed.

I have been working very conscientiously at overcoming my very silly fear of spiders. (It’s a ridiculous affliction for any self-respecting entomologist, although I have been assured that I am not alone *ahem, Ted, Shelly, Alex*).

Anyways, you can see that I’ve come a very long way in two years! If there are any other arachnophobes out there, please rest assured that there’s hope for you yet! 😀

On a completely unrelated note, it’s been a bit quiet here because I’ve been getting re-accustomed to having a teaching/coursework workload, and because I’ve been prepping for a conference taking place this weekend, and because other reasons. Like new projects and social media addictions: I HAVE A TUMBLR. WITH LOTS OF PHOTOS AND STUFF. IT’S AWESOME. CHECK IT OUT.  (Tumblr seems to be the perfect blogging format for a person such as myself, i.e., one with the attention span of a gnat. But fear not, I’ll still be here in full force once I stop panicking about conferences).

Photo Friday: a “fashionable urban spider”*

*credit for the title must go to Chris Buddle, who came up with the best possible description of this spider – so good I was unable to come up with anything else on my own.

This lovely lady caught my eye as she cruised over the beige landscape of my house’s siding:

Had she not been so utterly fashionable, what with her cheeky zebra-stripes, I might never have spotted her…

but the pattern was irresistible, and I just had to get some glamour shots before releasing her.

(Zebra Jumping Spider, Salticus scenicus)

Photo Friday: Jumping Spiders (Eris militaris)

A wonderful thing happened yesterday: my labmate and fellow PhD candidate, Raphael, brought some of his research subjects by our lab, which meant I had live critters to photograph in winter, yay! 😀

Raph’s research focuses on behavioural syndromes in jumping spiders (Salticidae: Eris militaris). It’s hard not to anthropomorphize these little animals – their large eyes, colorful markings and complex body language make them wonderfully personable. They are, in fact, so darned adorable that I couldn’t get arachnophobe-ey around them even if I tried.

The large male was intense, bold and explorative – he was NOT a cooperative subject.  Also, he seemed more interested in showing off his impressive pedipalps than anything else:

Eris militaris male (2)

Eris militaris male

The female was considerably calmer.  And, even though the male is strikingly marked with dark brown and bright ivory bars, I found her more subtle markings more beautiful.

Eris militaris female

Eris militaris female

Eris militaris female (2)

Eris militaris female

Raph placed the male and female under separate petri dish lids, side by side. The female noticed the male. The busy male was too busy exploring to notice her…at least until the dishes were lifted. Then he launched into an impressive display of dance and posturing, tentatively approaching and touching the female – only to be rebuffed three times – until at last his efforts were rewarded with a receptive reply, and they coupled.

Spider sex (which I have never witnessed firsthand before) looks awfully complicated. Or uncomfortable. Or both.

Jumping spider sex - Eris militaris (1)

Jumping spider sex. Hmm. Well that's interesting, isn't it?

Jumping spider sex (2) - Eris militaris

Jumping spider sex - where the business is actually happening.

Spider sex - Eris militaris

Jumping spider sex - the female looking...rather squashed.

I’ve invited Raph to tell us more about his research, and possibly show some of the videos he’s taken of his spiders (including the hilarious mating ritual that took place between the two subjects in the photos here!), so expect a guest post in the near future!

Menacing crab spider with prey, focus-stacked

I was very impressed with this spider, but then I really should stop being surprised by the ability of crab spiders to ambush and subdue large and potentially dangerous prey; I’ve encountered many flower crab spiders that have taken down bees or wasps twice their size.

This spider seemed particularly menacing for some reason. Legs spread wide, motionless, chelicerae buried deep, completely unbothered by the invasive camera lens – its prey utterly helpless.

Crab spider with carpenter ant prey

Crab spider (possibly a ground grab spider, Xysticus sp.) with Camponotus prey

This photo represents my first attempt at what’s called a “focus stack”. It’s a post-processing technique where two or more photographs are essentially overlain in order to obtain a greater depth of focus. In this case, I had one photo where the spider’s face was in focus, and another where the ant was in focus (well, more or less). I stacked the two to get both in focus in this final image. Some people have perfected the art (think Thomas Shahan, from whom I learned about this technique at BugShot) and can manually stack five, six, seven or more frames to get the perfect photo with piles of depth, even when the magnification is really high. Here’s another great example from one of the others students who attended BugShot.

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