Posts Tagged ‘Daddy long-legs’

Hatching spiders

August 2, 2012

I documented the start of a new spider generation earlier this spring, but there is always more to see, and when I discovered not one, but two, additional mommy long-legs with egg balls up in the corner of the garage, I was definitely interested. Late in the season to be starting a family, but it’s not like there will be a disastrous winter inside the garage.

One of the interesting things we discover only by inspecting the photo (not in the garage itself) is the liberal festooning of shed skins of prior generations of spiders. All spiders grow by shedding their skins.

The empty husks are of all sizes. This one is pretty big.

Before we really get into it, here’s one of mommy’s legs. No matter how small things are, there’s always an infinitude of even smaller detail.

Here is mommy, holding an egg ball between her pedipalps. I believe the spirals visible on the eggs are the wrapped-around legs of the hatchlings, visible through the transparent skin of the egg.

I had rather assumed that the egg balls were held together by some kind of bio-glue. But we can see the webbing wrapping around the ball in this photo, and it only makes sense that an orb weaver would, well… weave an orb. Of course.

The other thing to observe in these photos is that the eggs are no longer round. Their skins are being pushed out of shape by the growing spider inside. It won’t be long, now. Notice (below) the eyes peering back at us from inside several of the eggs.

When I first noticed my little friends, the eggs were not really translucent, so I waited a week or so. This last weekend (the end of July) I checked every hour or so — what I would really like is to actually see the babies hatch out. And I did.

Still photos are fine, but this also looked like an opportunity for a movie (9 minutes, 73 MB download!). I have never shot movies with this camera before, so it was a learning experience; that, and finding a freeware video editor for the production process (VideoPad, and thank you very much!). Despite its undoubted amateurish qualities, I think the video is pretty interesting and worth the download.

I spent much of the evening shooting stills and movies. The movie shoot required me to hold the camera and the light motionless, as much as possible, while standing on tiptoe on a ladder. Hard work!

By the end of the evening, the ball was starting to loosen up.

The second spider was a few hours behind the first, and her babies weren’t as lively. But by the next morning, her eggs had all hatched, and she was holding a ball of babies.

And then, by afternoon, the babies had started to disperse, and mommy was looking proudly on. They will stay around for yet a few days, and mommy will defend them to the death from predators, the predators being, likely as not, other daddy long-legs spiders.


Spiders and snakeflies and harvestmen, oh dear!

July 1, 2012

Some catching up to do… when last I updated the blog, we had a collection of spiderlings. While the ladder was out, I took the opportunity to photograph an adult or two.

The photo below shows a spider that has just molted its skin! The old skin, there in front, and the new surface, light and shiny. That’s pretty cool.

A few days later, I was sitting in the back yard soaking up a beer, when a little guy came along and perched on my pants leg. The weave of the cloth (below) gives you an idea how big he isn’t!

And this little fellow ran back and forth on the rim of the table for quite a while.

<time passes> I hiked Purisima Redwoods open space preserve with Albert, and the next day, Big Basin Redwoods state park. Nice hikes, but I have no photos to post.

<more time passes> 1 July 2012

Today I left the car at the Wunderlich parking lot, hiked to Skyline, thence to Huddart park and back. As 22 mile hikes go, this one is pretty easy: one climb to Skyline, then along the ridge on a trail that is certainly not flat, but doesn’t gain or lose all that much extra elevation.

When I crossed Kings Mountain road, I stopped for a shot of the cyclists going down. They move right along.

I asked Albert if he knew why trees grow in spirals (he didn’t). When I asked the question, we were looking at an example of a right-hand screw; we speculated that trees in the southern hemisphere might twist the other way.

But here is possibly the most extreme spiral tree I have ever encountered, and it’s a left-hand twist. Most of the madrones around this area were also left-handed, although I saw some right-handed madrones further along. So maybe it’s just in the DNA.

On the way back downhill in Wunderlich park, I stopped to inspect a growth of thistles along the trail. At first I thought this was a tiny mantis, but when you think about it, it’s clearly not a mantis.

Upon research, I discover it’s a snakefly. I don’t think I have ever heard of snakeflies before, and I’m sure I haven’t seen any. Carnivorous.

And in the same area — if you weren’t paying attention, you might think this was a spider.

A harvestman, the other kind of daddy long-legs.

In this picture (above) we can see the little turret atop the head, with one eye on either side. Spiders are considerably more advanced than this.

Finally, a moth; I liked the dual yellow lines of the rolled-up proboscis.

This is the last hike for a while. Friday is for surgery on an Achilles tendon that has been giving me trouble for a number of years now. and I’ll be off the trails for a while.

Mommy long-legs 3

June 17, 2012


I checked on things before going to bed last night. Everything seemed quiet. I just hope the eggs don’t all hatch overnight, so I won’t have a chance to see the excitement.

The first thing when I got up this morning was to go check again. Yep, we now have a ball of hatchlings, not a ball of eggs.

Notice that there are still several unhatched eggs in these pictures.

As to the babies, notice that the abdomens are pigmented, while the heads and legs are transparent. We also see tiny eye dots.

Actually, this is true to a certain extent of the adult spider as well. Jacky remarks that we can see mommy’s brain, and it may well be true.

I ate breakfast and checked in again half an hour later. I don’t see any unhatched eggs in the foto below.

Daddy has disappeared, intimidated by mommy’s ferocity. We know about ferocious females!

<Time passes>

I went out for a hike, got back early in the afternoon.

In prior years, mommy held onto a fluff ball for two or three days, comprising the husks of dead babies, presumably eaten by their siblings. Today, I don’t see a fluff ball, and mommy is free and clear.

The youngsters are strewn around. The smart ones stay clear of their siblings.

Every year, I make an effort to watch this drama, and most years I succeed. It is a terrific show!

Mommy long-legs 2

June 16, 2012

High drama!

I went into the garage to check on progress, and discovered mommy and daddy locked together, and not in an act of love! Daddy had clearly tried to raid the pantry, and mommy was going to have none of it!

The advantage of being an orb weaver is that the egg sac can be left behind, suspended from the ceiling, while mommy attacks daddy.

We can’t really see what daddy has in his pedipalps, but it’s clearly something.

We suspect he got at least an egg, if not an early hatchling.


And mommy goes back to the egg cluster. When I checked half an hour later, daddy had retreated to 10 cm or so, but was clearly hoping for a chance at dessert.

Mommy long-legs 1

June 16, 2012

I didn’t notice her until yesterday, a mommy long-legs with an egg ball, hanging from the garage ceiling.

I believe the swirls on the eggs are the legs of the developing spiderlings, showing through the semi-transparent membrane. They look to be just about ready to hatch.

In fact, the little dark spots on one or two of the eggs might even be the eyes of the spiderlings.

Just for grins, notice that she has at least eight eyes, and possibly more.

Not far away, another spider. Probably male, possibly the biological father of the egg mass. Paternity is not his focus; he’s interested in lunch.

I nudged him a little further away, but I’m not in the bodyguard business. Will he succeed in getting some of the little ones?

Watch this space!

Easter, and we’re godparents!

April 24, 2011

Some years ago, I watched a daddy long-legs nurture an egg ball until it hatched out. Well, really a mommy long-legs, I suppose. In any event, I have always watched for an opportunity to repeat the experience. This time, it was even better, because my little eight-legged friend set up shop in the kitchen, rather than the garage. Lower ceiling, easier to keep an eye on her.

The above picture was taken on April 3. (By the way, you can see a high-resolution version by clicking the image.) Notice that the eggs are essentially featureless balls. Observe also that she is pretty fat and healthy.

I was taking pictures of her every day or so, but it was clearly causing her distress, so I settled for keeping an eye on things, hoping to be there during the hatching out.

Saturday, April 23. The eggs are starting to hatch. The ball is coming apart!

Things to notice in this picture: the hatchling hidden by mom’s leg, just left of center at the top. The texture, the swirls in the eggs that haven’t hatched yet. These are the legs of the youngsters, wrapped around to fit inside the egg, but visible through its membrane.

Another shot, showing the precocious youngster at the upper right. You could say that mom has a handful, except that she has no hands. Would it be properly idiomatic to say that she has a pedipalp-ful?

 Easter Sunday, April 24. When we went down for breakfast, this (above) is what we found: instead of an egg ball, a cloud of hatchlings. Congratulations, Ms Longlegs!

Mom still has some kind of fluffball in her pedipalps, but it’s only detritus from the eggs. Look at all those little guys!

I asked Jacky to guesstimate the size of the egg ball. She guessed fifty eggs. In one of the pictures, I did a quick count and got forty-five little guys. Good estimate!

The eleven-year old boy in me thinks this is fantastic!

Is it my imagination, or does she not look quite as fat and healthy as she did three weeks ago, before going on her fast?