Step into my parlor…

Step into my parlor...
…said the spider to the lady beetle. And yet, nothing happened. This morning before work I went out and, as usual, was taking pictures of whatever I could find in the yard. I found this lovely Southern Sprite damselfly (first of the season): It’s always a pleasure to see these relatively rare damselflies. (Odd, too, how abundance is ...

Dragonflies and damselflies returning to the yard

Dragonflies and damselflies returning to the yard
After a dry beginning to March (and no rain since then, but at least the heat’s moderated a bit for the past few days), the odonates have started returning to the yard, just in time for the equinox! One or two of them run into mishaps: but by and large they are still the most ...

Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress
You may remember that I volunteer with the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management from time to time, helping them clean up and maintain the natural areas here in Boca Raton. Last weekend there was a work party at Yamato Scrub, and we were there for sunrise, coffee, donuts, muffins, and—oh, yeah—work. We ...

New backyard spider: Cyrtophora citricola

New backyard spider: <em>Cyrtophora citricola</em>
Gardeners in south Florida are the inverse of the typical beachgoer: instead of looking forward to a sunny day for reading, we look forward to a cloudy morning for weeding! August days, even in the morning, can be brutal. Earlier this week my weather station reported a heat index of 110°F! So when we get ...

Dune sunflowers, spiders, and moths, oh my!

Dune sunflowers, spiders, and moths, oh my!
Dune sunflower, Helianthus debilis, is a commonly recommended plant for Florida native gardeners. It’s in the daisy family (Asteraceae), and it’s very pretty: Yellow rays, purple disc flowers, loads of pollen—very attractive to bees and butterflies. It self-sows and reseeds annually, so once you’ve got it established, you don’t have to do much except remove ...

New photos: Spiny-backed orbweaver

New photos: Spiny-backed orbweaver
Tooling around the house in preparation for Halloween, I found this little lady near the ficus that our neighbor planted to mark the property line: She’s a spiny-backed orbweaver, Gasteracantha cancriformis. I wrote about this species last year around this time (spiders are most numerous and visible in the fall), but I finally got a ...

Your eyes are like little moons… well, sort of.

Your eyes are like little moons... well, sort of.
I’ve written about Selenops spiders before, but thought I’d give it another go, now that there’s such a cooperative one living in a crack on the landing: Most spiders build webs, so they rely more on their sense of touch to sense the vibrations of prey that have become stuck in their traps. Other groups ...

Leetle bitty spiders, Part 5

Leetle bitty spiders, Part 5
Menemerus bivittatus, also known as the Gray Wall Jumper, is a pantropical species of jumping spider that occurs in four of the southern United States: Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and California (here’s an image from Los Angeles that was posted to bugguide a couple of years ago). It’s unclear (to me at least), why it has ...

Leetle bitty spiders, part 4: Hentzia sp.

Leetle bitty spiders, part 4: Hentzia sp.
One of the more interesting “free-range” groups of spiders is the family Salticidae, the jumping spiders. They have one pair of marvelously large eyes situated prominently up front, which is what provides them the depth perception they need to coordinate their incredible jumping ability. They use this ability to leap from point to point to ...

Leetle bitty spiders? Nunh-uh! Argiope species in Florida yards

Leetle bitty spiders? Nunh-uh! Argiope species in Florida yards
I never finished the miniseries I had started last December on spiders found in and around my yard; here is the fourth installment, starring two species of orbweaver that are commonly encountered in gardens both in Florida and elsewhere. They are so common, in fact, that they have common names, unlike the vast majority of ...