Nature Notes: Behind you Miss Muffet!

Behind you Miss Muffet!

Behind you Miss Muffet!

First published in Nature Notes Wandsworth Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

On chilly, misty late summer mornings and throughout autumn, one of the most familiar sights will be shimmering dew-laden garden spider's webs.

Sitting in the web's centre,always head down,will be a plump female waiting patiently for an unwary fly to blunder into her snare.

There are several species of spider around including scary house spiders, dreaded by arachnophobics; the wolf spider that carries her egg sac beneath her body and the little hunting spider which stalks and pounces on tiny insects on walls and fences.

Less often seen because of her superb camouflage is the white or cream coloured,aptly named crab spider. She spins no web but sits openly on a flower head, blending in perfectly with its colour. The photo shows a crab spider that chose a daisy on which to lurk. Directly a small hoverfly, solitary wasp or similar alights to imbibe nectar or pollen the spider pounces, sinks her fangs into the neck of her hapless prey which is paralysed and sucks out its life juices. The whole insect is rarely eaten but when sucked dry, the carcass is flicked away.

The spider either remains on top of the flower or if disturbed or caught in the rain crawls beneath to continue her meal of insect soup. As her chosen flower fades, she moves to a freshly opened bloom.

I have also seen a pair of mating brimstone butterflies fly down to settle deep in the grass and watched as a crab spider stealthily crept up and fixed her fangs into the female while her mate remained totally unaware of his partners fate.

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