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Our garden's spider friends

Don't let my dear wife Amy see these pictures - she won't want to get anywhere near the garden anymore. But spiders are so fascinating!

Orb weavers

This black-and-yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia), or writing spider, was patiently awaiting dinner among our tomato plants. Guess who's going to be harvesting the tomatoes from now on?
Brown-hairy with colorful markings, the Hentz orbweaver (Neoscona cruciferae) is a traditional "scary spider". Very useful in the garden, though, as it catches all kinds of other insects. The one pictured at right lived in our driveway border. She had a nice web with traditional layout, but spent the daylight hours hiding in a leaf on the outskirts of her home (unlike the argiope above, who sits proudly in the center of her web at all times). When disturbed, she runs to the center of her web, and spastically shakes it about once a second, until she calms down. Hentz orbweaver
Neoscona domiciliorum: spotted orbweaver This spotted orbweaver, probably Neoscona domiciliorum, clambered down my arm into my seed gathering bucket as I was collecting Thalictrum flavum seed one day - I must admit I didn't particularly care for the experience. After taking her picture, I gave her a new home in our garden.
Leucauge venusta: orchard web weaver

The Venusta orchard orb weaver (Leucauge venusta) is smaller than the ones above. The bright coloration, so obvious in the photo, is easy to miss in a real-life encounter. Fittingly enough, we found ours in the orchard area of our garden. Leucauge venusta: orchard web weaver

Here's another one, in a carefully crafted web this time.
We've found this species of funnel web weaver, also known as common grass spider (Agelenopsis sp.) both inside the house and outside – they have a particular affinity for kids' plastic yard play equipment. We're not sure they make good playmates, but these spiders are mostly harmless to humans. They create a funnel-shaped web and wait in the center, then pounce when their prey enters.
The longlegged sac spider (Cheiracanthium mildei) is commonly found in the US. It is poisonous to humans, which I didn't know until I read up on it after taking this photo. This particular individual was in an iris flower whose stalk had fallen to the ground after a thunderstorm. I don't know if it was lying in waiting for prey.
sac spider (cheiracanthium or clubiona)

Another sac spider – possibly the same species, but it cannot be positively identified from this photo. It's either in the Cheiracanthium or Clubiona genus. My six-year-old daughter actually found this in her room (and she wasn't too happy). Spidy is now living outside. I wonder what happened to its left front leg? orb weaver Gea heptagon

A boy orb weaver of the Gea heptagon species. Dig those mouthpieces (chelicerae to the initiated)! orb weaver Gea heptagon

web weaver Steatoda triangulosa

When I was dismantling our patio steps (which were in need of repair), I found this little gal scurrying on the underside of one of the planks. Which is about right, since this species, Steatoda triangulosa, is commonly found in homes or other dark enclosed manmade spaces. It is likely native to Eurasia, but is now widespread around North America as well. Supposedly common, but I've only seen the one thus far. star-bellied orb weaver Acanthepeira stellata

Alas, this star-bellied orb weaver (Acanthepeira stellata) was already mostly incapacitated by the parasite protruding from its side (perhaps the larva of an ichneumon wasp) by the time I found it on a leaf one day in late spring. I don't think I'd encountered this species before – so I hope I find a healthy one sometime soon.
Texas, June 2018

Hunters, not spinners

I don't know much about spiders, but one distinction between the various orders seems to be that some spin webs to catch their prey, while others lurk in hiding or actively hunt. The ones below are webless types. trachelas tranquillus

This boldly colored specimen is a male Trachelas tranquillus, a ground sac spider. He was hanging out on a porch swing cushion that had made its way onto the back-yard lawn. oxyopes salticus

This photo was a nice surprise - when I spotted the spider on a plant, I knew it was one I hadn't seen before, but I couldn't tell just how interesting it looked until the photo appeared on my screen. It's a striped lynx spider (Oxyopes salticus), so named because it pounces on its prey like a cat. green lynx spider: peucetia viridans

And here's its cousin, the green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans). This one showed itself to me in our Houston-area garden, claiming an entire leaf of a winterhazel sapling as its territory. It is reportedly quite a useful creature, counting many garden pests among its prey. Live long and prosper! six-spotted fishing spider: Dolomedes triton

True to form, we found this six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) on a lilypad in our pond. It is a large and powerful hunder, but did not appear to have helped itself to any of our goldfish; perhaps it was after one of the many tadpoles swimming around. The species belongs to the family of nursery web spiders, so named because they hatch their eggs inside a web tent, with mama standing guard outside. There are more than six spots on this species' abdomen – the common name refers to spots on the underside of the spider, which I haven't had the opportunity to examine. It is found in a wide range of North America. small jumping spider

This tiny thing is a jumping spider, possibly in the Habronattus genus. It was resting on a metal plant tag. Hentzia mitrata: jumping spider

Cool little jumping spider (Hentzia mitrata), found by Amy (who, to her credit, didn't panic). He wouldn't sit still for a picture, though, so just a so-so image for now.

Salticus scenicus

Another jumper, this one squarely in the center of that class of spiders: it's a zebra jumper, Salticus scenicus. Tiny thing: the patterning isn't all that clear until you look up close.

Anasaitis canosa: Twinflagged jumping spider

This photo has the distinction of being the very first arthropod picture I took and posted after moving to Texas. Before even getting a start on gardening. This little one is a twinflagged jumping spider (Anasaitis canosa) and it was indeed quite jumpy. Without the benefit of the photographic enlargement, it wasn't clear what the silvery white parts of the feelers were. It kept moving them in and out, which made it look almost like it was blinking white eyes. Its sighting was in plain defiance of the Texas way of hiring exterminators to rid homes of all manner of unwelcome guests, spiders prominently among them. We gave in to the trend, following advice from many, but I'm glad that this spunky jumper survived.
Texas, September 2016 Phidippus: jumping spider

I've seen two of these little jumpers since moving to Texas. They're ever so cute, and like to gaze up at me with their eight adoring eyes. I've been told it's a young Phidippus; I think I'll call the next one I see Philip and see he answers (if she doesn't, I guess I should have tried Philippa instead).
Texas, November 2016

Phidippus audax: jumping spider

And here's a rather larger specimen of the same species (now identified as Phidippus audax (the bold jumping spider). It was scurrying around on top of our compost tumbler one day, which explains the somewhat poor contrast in the photo (for which I apologize). It does seem like the color darkens to a true black as these spiders age. I like the irridescent face on this guy, as well as the quite prominent abdominal spots. He didn't respond when I called him Philip.
Texas, June 2017 platycryptus undatus: jumping spider

Another jumping spider, mid-sized Platycryptus undatus, appeared on our fence in October. Non-close-up, it has a tan coloration, a little lighter than the fence but still fairly well camouflaged. Apparently a common species, but without common name as far as I've been able to tell.
Texas, October 2018 Herpyllus ecclesiasticus: Eastern parson spider

Strictly speaking, this shouldn't be on, because we found it inside the house - in my boys' bedroom, to be precise, in the box where my son Ben keeps his fossil collection. This fast-moving creature is an Eastern parson spider (Herpyllus ecclesiasticus), a ground spider that's considered mostly harmless. It's named for the pattern in the white stripe across the abdomen, which supposedly resembles the cravats worn by clergymen in times past.
Pennsylvania, November 2011 Pardosa (thin-legged wolf spider) with babies

When I spotted this thin-legged wolf spider (Pardosa species) I thought it was very different from any spider I'd seen before – the shape of the body, the color combination, I just didn't recognize it. Actually, I've seen plenty of wolf spiders like this one before; the difference was that this mama spider was carrying not only an egg sac, but also some of her newly hatched babies, while others were still emerging from the sac. Despite this burden, she still got around surprisingly fast. Aren't mothers amazing?
Texas, May 2017

rabidosa wolf spider

The largest spider, as judged by its legspan, that I've encountered in Texas thus far, this wolf spider (Rabidosa species) was sunning itself on our fence in late November. I see its smaller cousins (either younger versions of the same species, or smaller species) routinely around the garden, but specimens this size don't come around as much.
Texas, November 2016

Crab spiders

Crab spiders (members of the Thomisidae family) are hunters that quietly wait for prey to arrive, relying on ambush and camouflage rather than rapid pursuit to nab their victims. When they come in range, they grab them with their strong front legs and deliver a venomous bite.

little green crab spider

This crab spider was itty bitty (the seedpod is from a basil stalk, to give a sense of size).
Pennsylvania, October 2004

  Mecaphesa celer (swift crab spider)

This one, a swift crab spider (Mecaphesa celer) is somewhat larger, but was still pretty good at hiding between a leaf and a stem of our small oleander. In this first picture, its two pairs of front legs (which, as with all crab spiders, are considerably longer than the back pairs) were folded in a seated position. When I moved the camera to get closer in, the spider raised its front legs in an attack or capture position. Perhaps it thought that my Olympus was a tasty morsel of prey.
Texas, June 2017 Mecaphesa asperata (northern crab spider)

Its cousin, a northern crab spider (Mecaphesa asperata) was hanging out in some flowers in late fall. It is identified by the spiny hairs all over its body and legs, and white area around its eyes. It occurs across a large swath of Central and North America.
Texas, November 2021

Xysticus (ground crab spider)

The cutypies at right and below are ground crab spiders (Xysticus sp.), generally found on or near the ground as their name suggests. They feed on insects and other spiders.
Texas, October 2017 (right)

Texas, December 2018

Big daddies

harvestman on gomphrena

Daddy longlegs, or harvestmen, are not true spiders. However, they have eight legs and strike fear in the hearts of many female humans, so I'll include them on this page. The one pictured here, a Phalangium opilio in the suborder Palpatores, was rather possessive about the gomphrena flower he had claimed for himself. This species is common in human-disturbed habitats, and feeds on soft-bodied animals such as insect larvae, aphids, and slugs.
Pennsylvania, September 2004 harvestman daddy longlegs Leiobunum vittatum

Here's a different one, with twinkly little black eyes and a darth vader mouth part. There were two of these Leiobunum vittatum hanging out on a red currant bush one evening in mid June.
Pennsylvania, June 2014

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