Saturday, December 26, 2009

And now for something a little less grotesque...

I know insects and spiders aren't for everyone... my spider with the dragonfly picture will give some people nightmares I'm sure. My apologies.

This is one of my favourite ladybug shots. A friend of mine said she thought this would make an excellent Christmas card. I have hundreds of ladybug shots, especially since this past autumn was so very mild. I was still getting shots of ladybugs out enjoying the sun in November!

This particular ladybug is an Asian multicoloured lady beetle and is easily identified by the "M" shaped marking behind its head (on the pronotum).  

The "M" on this ladybug easily identifies this as the Asian multicoloured lady beetle

Here are some more Juicy Tidbits.....
  • The Asian multicoloured lady beetle is a tree-dweller and eats aphids
  • Is usally about 8 to 9 mm in length... one of the larger lady beetles
  • It is also known as the Southern lady beetle, Halloween lady beetle or the Japanese lady beetle depending on what part of the world you are from
  • They come in a variety of colours ranging from yellow to red to orange and rarely even black
  • Their spots vary as well -- from 19 to less than 19 to none. The spots themselves can vary too... from well defined to barely visible traces
  • The black "M" shaped marking on its pronotum can appear as a thick,solid marking, as a thin marking or as a broken "M"
  • They are capable of biting
Links to other lady beetle sites:  Lady Beeltes of Ontario website put up by the University of Guelph.   Great pictures and information found here.  University of Minnesota article by Jeffrey Hahn

Resources used
  1. Kaufman's "Field Guide to Insects of North America", page 156
  2. The two websites listed above... Lady Beetles of Ontario and the University of Minnesota article by Jeffrey Hahn.
Happy Boxing Day everyone... enjoy your day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hanging by a Head: The Fabulous Dock Spider

This is a dolomedes fishing spider.  A very happy, about to be well fed, fishing spider who has neatly removed the head of an unfortunate dragonfly.  You may better know this spider as a raft spider, a wharf spider, or (more popularly) as a dock spider. These spiders are amazing creatures... they are able to walk on water (much like a water strider) where they are able to hunt mayflies, aquatic insects and even small fish. They even have the ability to hunt underwater! This particular spider was an excellent dragonfly hunter, as I found him with another unfortunate dragonfly victim the following week.

This was not my first fishing spider find.  That had occured a year before, and was by far my most exciting find.  Ever since we had moved to Ontario, we would often hear people talking about the giant dock spiders they have at their cottage.  Every time I found myself near the water, or at someone's lakeside property, I would eagerly seek out these giant beauties - but never found any!  Finally, while at our friend's cottage on Lake of Bays, I happened upon a female dock spider and her spiderlings.  She was HUGE! Including her leg span, she was about the size of my hand.  The size of my HAND!  I had never seen a spider that big here in Canada!  I was able to get many shots of her, but was never brave enough to get a shot of my hand in the picture to help show proportions.  After that, I started spotting dock spiders all over the place.  On the dock near where I found the female, I found several males, who were all considerably smaller than the female.  This is known as sexual dimorphism. 

A female fishing spider with spiderlings. 

When it comes to identifying spiders, there are several things you can look at to help figure out what you're dealing with. Size, colour, special markings, etc. When it comes to the fishing spider, one of my favourite ways of telling what I have is by looking at the eye pattern of the spider. For the fishing spider, I look for two rows of 4 eyes stacked on each other like little smiles. I have cropped and enlarged two photos to show the pattern. My apologies for the quality, but cropping and enlarging compromises photo quality.

                                                                             Two rows of 4 eyes.  

Here is a link to Bug Guide that takes you a page showing all the different eye patterns of different spiders:

I no longer find it so difficult to find fishing spiders.  There is a little creek that feeds into the lake near my house.  Every summer I am easily able to find dock spiders in the tall grasses that grace the banks of the creek - and then I take plenty of photos to share with family and friends!