Friday, August 9, 2019

Enoplognatha ovata, the Common Candy-striped spider

I've been cultivating this garden for over 30 years and this is the first year that I've noticed these exquisite little candy-striped spiders Enoplognatha ovata

I might have missed them entirely, because in late July and early August they hide under leaves, guarding a ball of eggs that's covered in vivid blue silk.  But I must have carried them to the garden waste recycling bin in some plants that I'd cut down from an overgrown corner of the garden, because when I lifted the lid the next day several had climbed up, carrying their eggs, and were sitting around the rim of the bin.

I rescued them on my gardening glove and had an opportunity to watch their devoted care for their unborn young, carrying them around under their body in a search for a new, safe incubation site. The mother in the photo above is in defensive mode, waving her front legs at me.

So far I've rescued about a dozen of these spiders and released them in the strawberry patch, where they immediately carried their eggs under the leaves and used silken threads to draw the edges of the leaf together.

There are three colour morphs of this spider, including this one with a plain white abdomen. The third form has a single broad red stripe down the middle of the upper surface of its abdomen, but I haven't found that one yet.

You can find more information on this charming arachnid, and speculation about the possible survival significance of the three different colour morphs, at this British Arachnological Society web page.

If there is a moral to this story it is that, if you send garden waste for recycling, it's a good idea to check around the top of the bin before it's collected, because this is where small animals that have been accidentally thrown out with the herbage often take refuge. 

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