Friday, April 29, 2011

“My, my, my,” said the spider to the fly....

The words of a nursery rhyme get things under way today. Apt for two main reasons, firstly, this post (and please don't let this 'creep you out') contains both spiders & flies & secondly children, or at least young adults, have a part to play in this tale as well.

O.K. so let's tackle the "I hate spiders, I can't even look at pictures of them" thing first shall we? C'mon, you know it's you I'm aiming this at?

We have an irrational fear of spiders here in the U.K.and elsewhere too I'd guess. When was the last time somebody was bitten by an indigenous spider? 
If we got together all the folks bitten by spiders, we could probably get them all in the back-room of a pub.
Then let's have a commitee formed of all those who have suffered pain and inconvenience, to meet in the kitchen, should be plenty of room there.
Later we could have a meeting of all the people who have been seriously inconvenienced by spider bites? I reckon a phone box would do for that!
No, it can't be a fear of getting bitten. It therefore must revolve around the 
look of spiders and how fast they move?

"Ooooh! They just give me the creeps, I hate them" That's the usual response when arachnids are even mentioned.
Well I hate politicians, they give me the creeps, but I don't want to stamp on them and kill them at first glance!................................ O.K. Bad example, but you know what I'm saying?

I'm sounding here like one of those oh,so annoying people who have just given up smoking and now preach to everyone else in some self-righteous, pious way about the evils of nicotine. For I too was paranoid about spiders, my fear was bred into me by my mother's hatred of them. She would scream at any sighting of spiders, real or otherwise. She would often say to me "There's one in here somewhere, I can hear it" 
"Yes" I'd jokingly reply, "It's over in the corner there, taking off it's boots before having a shave" But her fear was genuine, comedy was never going to help and anyhow, I didn't know any.
However, since photographing them and getting to know more about the little things (and most of ours are little) I am much better now thank-you doctor!
What I would like is for you to give them a chance. I'm not expecting you to love them right away, or even rave about their beauty (although I have and constantly do) just respect them for what they are. They have as much right to be here as we do.They were here long before we arrived and what have they done to half-destroy our planet? .They don't hate us, they fear us, so let's try and live in harmony?  

There, didn't frighten you did it? This little lady is a crab spider (Misumena vatia) This particular one has the ability to change colour to match the flower it's sitting on. Quite why they have the different colour eyes I don't know. 

I wanted to start with a spider photograph because I was photographing one (not this one as it happens) when I was aware of children playing near by in the woodland that I had been walking in.
I think, being a holiday weekend, two young lads were being treated to a day out in the woods by their father. Anyhow,our paths crossed several times and the two boys seemed to be more and more interested in just what the strange man with a camera was doing rummaging around in the undergrowth.
Each time they sauntered past me, I seemed to have assumed a different yoga position in order to get the best angle on whatever it was had attracted my attention and there was a good deal of gesticulating at my genuflecting!

After a while, curiosity must have got the better of them and the father came over and spoke to me.
"The boys have been wondering just what you are taking pictures of" was his opening gambit.
A long conversation between myself, the father and the boys followed. I'll abridge it here to save you the detail but it was along the lines of how interested the two boys were becoming in my antics. Once I'd showed them some of the images on my camera, the questions began to flow.The one that sticks in my mind is "Do you kill them after you have photographed them?"

Me: "No! Why would I do that? You mustn't kill anything boys" Boy: "Well, they could sting you and hurt you"

"Daddy" said Thomas, the elder boy. "Could we do that on the way home?" 
"Well, we could" replied father. "But unless this man comes with us, it won't be much fun because we won't know what what we've found, we won't be able to identify anything much"

James, the younger boy thought for a while, then..."We could guess Daddy. If we see something that looks a bit like a bee, we could say, that's a bee".
Now, my education may not have been to the required standard for becoming one of those much hated MPs, but that sounded like quite a logical plan of action to me.
Dad wasn't impressed. He suggested what they needed was perhaps a book and then they could return at a later date, book in hand and have their own little nature walk.
I suggested a likely publication and it was agreed. It made my day to see these little ones so engrossed in nature to the extent they obviously were. In this age of computer games et al, it gave me a real lift to think that just maybe, in my own small way I'd fired something in their imaginations that could lead who knows where.


In my last blog entry, I mentioned scorpion flies, saying that they'd be along any-time now. Well, the wait is over. If you have not seen these strange looking flies before (and I'd suggest that most folks haven't) then take a look, as flies go, they're one of the stranger looking British diptera.

A Scorpion Fly (male)

Common scorpionflies (Panorpidae). These are the only  family that have the upturned scorpion-like genitalia or 'tail' that gives the order its name. They are brownish yellow and black insects with mottled wings and are found amongst shaded vegetation and in hedgerows.
They feed on dead or dying insects (including any they might spot in a spider's web) and are also partial to ripe fruit and, when it's available, human sweat!
Although they look quite frightening, they are actually harmless.

Sawflies (Symphyta) These can be identified by the lack of a 'waist' between the thorax and abdomen.The females also have a saw-like ovipositor.
Most species fly by day. The larvae resemble the caterpillars of some butterflies and moths but have more legs. There are over 400 British species.

A Sawfly

This particular sawfly was a find on one of my walks around local lakes. I've not been able to get an exact identity as yet. The following photograph of a sawfly larva was discovered on the same walk that I met the young boys on.

A Sawfly larva

Now that the season is well and truly under-way, my bug-hunting has changed from the winter norm of, let's say a 2 hour walk that if I was lucky would perhaps reveal a matching amount of inverts to photograph, to having to be sensible about choosing which to photograph as there are so many now.

Of course, here in Kent, we are spoiled for beautiful countryside to ramble in. I keep a diary from year to year of where I find certain things and then can re-visit the following year to check how a species is doing. That's if I can find the car keys.(What is it about getting older that makes you forget?) I used to know the answer to that but....

For instance, I know only to well that a favourite species of butterfly will never be sighted locally but still within the county, about an hours drive away, come June there will be plenty to photograph. That means a visit to a town that I love anyway, Canterbury will be a priority.
Pictured right is a Canterbury sunrise from one of the former visits.

To return to spiders then (yes,we do have to) Larinioides cornutus an Orb Weaver spider has some striking markings and to my eye is attractive. I don't expect you'll agree dear reader but I'm working on the premise that if I keep drip-feeding you photos and stories of spiders, eventually by the process of osmosis, you'll find something in what I say? These ones are to be found for the most part in damper areas, in particular waterside.
They are of a reasonable size and without any prompting at all, will jump from their untidy web directly onto your face and proceed to crawl into your ears!
Damn!...why do I do it? Why make up such rubbish and undo all my previous efforts to get you onside? 
I'll leave you for now with a photograph of the spider in question. If when I return in a few days time with a fresh blog entry, I'm greeted by the sight of you still comatose on the floor, I'll probably take that as a sign of failure.

Until the next time then...

An Orb Weaver Spider 

1 comment:

  1. Love the sunrise shot... yes I scrolled fast and covered my eyes for the other shots... haven't convinced me of their beauty yet... sorry... not so brave over here.


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