Sleep tight

If you’re arachnophobic, this post isn’t for you, unless you’re determined to get over it or just realize that it’s only pics on your monitor. I’ve done my part in warning you and am now absolved of all legal liability and suchlike.

A few weeks back while hunting bugs at night for The Girlfriend’s Younger Sprog (long story,) I caught a flash of reflected light from the headlamp, in a weed thicket. I shifted back and forth, unable to make out the source (which I was sure was a spider,) and surmised that the culprit was likely hiding behind some dead leaves – until I realized the culprit was the dead leaves, or what I’d taken for such anyway. Coaxing her out was a little tricky, but she was remarkably patient for all the shots I took.
This is a variety of fishing spider, genus Dolomedes, which remains unidentified because several species have very subtle differentiations that I did not capture in images. And yes, that’s an egg sac she’s clutching possessively. The various wolf spiders keep theirs attached to their spinnerets and are able to hold them off the ground if necessary that way, but the fishing spiders (from my experience) seem to also hold the sacs with their chelicerae – I’m pretty sure it’s also affixed to her abdomen, tucked down in an atypical angle. She hadn’t appeared to be going anywhere when I found her, and even my messing about didn’t produce more than some shy edging away, not so much that I wasn’t able to go in ridiculously close.
Fishing spiders, or at least some of the species, are not always found near water sources, and a few of my encounters have been quite far from them. Sometimes, they find whatever’s handy. My model here stayed put while I went inside to collect my calipers for some blog data, allowing me to give a better idea of scale:
That’s a leg spread of 8cm (3+ inches,) which is large enough to give me the heebie-jeebies to some extent – even knowing her fangs were full of future fry, when she started up the branch towards my hand I was unable to let her complete that journey. Some day, some day. But as a concession, I went with another image to show scale:
Honkin4[As I was previewing the post so far, a teeny spider about the size of this >. strolled down the monitor, just for a giggle.]

Yes, I go all Nature Boy barefoot in the summer, partially in self-defense – shoes make my feet ridiculously hot, and even in winter I’m often in ventilated sneakers. It does lead to the occasional issue, as I’ll relate a little later on, but the spider was unconcerned – no sense of smell, I believe.

Tonight as I type this, I had been outside checking on conditions for the Perseids shower (which are rotten – too much cloud cover,) and spotted a familiar blue-green light from the grass. This time around it was a much smaller wolf spider, leg spread maybe 2cm, but she was ferrying her young around on her back, as they are wont to do. I’ve been wanting to try an experiment but haven’t found a suitable subject until now, so I went in and fetched the ringflash for that direct lighting effect, and did indeed get what I was after:
The raindrops aren’t helping the issue any – it would have been more obvious without them – but those blue points are reflections from the eyes of the young (and one big one from the momma.) There aren’t many, because the spiderlings keep their heads inwards for protection, and of course the angle has to be right. The next goal is to separate one or two from the mother and photograph them independently, nice and close.

To offset things a tad, I’ll close with a few much cuter images, for most people anyway. The previous night, I found a variety of sphinx moth hanging out in the rosemary, and tried the ringflash with that too, with excellent results:
At some point, I may be back to explain this red-eye effect, common to many species of moth, but for now just know that it’s much more brilliant than seen here, reflecting brightly even from a few meters away.

The same storm that I chased in this post may have grounded this next moth, an Antheraea polyphemus, since I found it sitting on the ground the next day.
Those spots on the wings really are transparent, to what end I cannot say – perhaps it is the Lepidoptera equivalent of lingerie (yes, this is a female, as indicated by the antennae – the male’s are much more feathery.) This is one of the species of moth – the pale green luna is another – that have no mouthparts in the winged adult phase, since they do not feed as adults. This stage is devoted to procreation only, and lasts but a few days.

I had no problem letting this species crawl across my hand, which just goes to show that you can’t judge on appearances – the spider likely would have done absolutely nothing, but this dainty lady defecated on my fingers. And people think insects can’t communicate…

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