Photo Credit: 
Randy Mitchell | For The Chronicle

This week, rather than focus on a single species, I thought it would be nice to write about a few things that I’ve observed lately. And, I know, not everyone is a fan of spiders and bugs, but they are a part of nature. And the ones I’m featuring here are beneficial to humans and are harmless as well.

First off, I recently witnessed — and photographed — a tan jumping spider capture a roach on my front porch.

Now, before you start thinking I have a roach problem at my home, I assure you, I do not. I despise most roaches; therefore, I keep my house very clean, and free of those monsters!

The roach in question was a wood cockroach. These bugs usually stick to woodlands, although they are attracted to porch lights, so you may see them outside your house from time to time.

However, they may inadvertently find their way into your home as well. But rest assured, they don’t want to be in there. Moist wooded areas are the preferred habitat of wood cockroaches. I’ll most likely feature those creatures in a future column, but let’s get back to the tan jumping spider, which I’ve featured previously.

I saw the jumper running across the bricks at a high rate of speed, then noticed what it was headed for. When it was about a foot away from the intended prey, it crept slowly until it was about 3 inches from the roach (see photos), then leapt with lightning-quick speed and snagged it without much fuss. An easy capture, for sure.

And then there’s “Big Bertha,” a bold jumping spider who also inhabits my front porch. She is an absolute savage when it comes to hunting. I’ve watched for several weeks as she’s grown to be about as large as bold jumpers get. And she did so by feasting on many insects, and even other spiders.

While I’ve photographed her many times consuming assassin bugs — including wheel bugs — a few days ago, she captured, killed and then consumed “Sally the orb weaver” spider. And Sally was pretty good at snagging prey as well.

Now, before I go on, let me explain that I don’t give these creatures names like they are pets or something, it’s just so I can keep track of which ones are which. And it’s kind of silly. Just so we’re clear, I don’t treat them as pets, and I certainly don’t speak to them!

Now, jumping spiders have excellent vision, but they require light to hunt and escape predation. So, at night, they retreat to a good hiding place. Certain orb weavers, such as the species, which was Sally, hunt at night and hide during the day.

However, it seems nothing escapes Bertha. Another interesting happening was seeing a thin-spined jumping spider. As far as I know, it was a first for me. That’s one of the great things about macro photography, seeing tiny creatures much closer than usual. The body of the spider I observed was maybe 3/16” to 1/4”, the latter being as large as they get.

However, I was stunned at the spectacular appearance of that spider. It looked as if it had climbed out of a vat of gold. Its cephalothorax and abdomen also had stunning iridescent green and purple colors, over the gold, when viewed at certain angles.

My photos can’t express just how metallic this spider was, especially when viewed on newsprint, but it was really something. There is little information out there which concerns this species, but I will do my best to locate some, and study these spiders when I can. Hopefully, I can learn enough to feature the thin-spined jumping spider someday.

 

Randy Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. He has been an avid birdwatcher, nature enthusiast and photographer for more than 40 years. Reach him at rnw@usa.com.

RANDY’S NATURAL WORLD