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 rain overnight followed by lingering clouds, we jump at the chance to get a bit muddy while trimming back the overgrown foliage and pulling out the weeds from the flower beds.
When we get the chance to do this, we often discover new and unusual [...]
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 couple relatively decent pictures of one and wanted to show the world.
I’ve been trying for some time now to get an image that shows this darn spider’s eyes. I’m beginning to think I’ll have to capture one and pose it, [...]
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 this disjunct distribution, but it was apparently introduced into Florida from the Old World tropics as far back as 1912. It is associated almost exclusively with human habitations.
Based on a sample size of one (i.e., me), it seems that when a curious backyard naturalist [...]
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 spiders: Argiope argentata is known as Silver Garden Orbweaver or Silver Argiope, while A. florida is known as the Florida argiope. Florida has two other Argiope species, A. aurantia and A. trifasciata, but I have yet to encounter them in my Florida back yard, so [...]
I’m outside every chance I get, trying to investigate how my back yard functions. I check the light conditions at various times of day; I see who is visiting what plant and when (and if possible, why); and every now and then I get a picture that might serve as the basis of an ID, and I try to get it identified. That’s where bugguide.net comes in.
One of the reasons I like to use websites like bugguide.net is they are run by such a passionate crowd. These people love what they do, and it shows. They are amateurs in [...]
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know by now that I love my pool fence. I’ve gotten more good bugs on my pool fence than I have from any other single source on the homestead. But every now and then I have to venture inside the fence for some reason or other, even when, as now, it’s no longer “swimming season” (defined as water temperature at or above 85°F).
Usually these excursions intramuros are to retrieve some object Eric has thrown over the fence and NEEDS to have back in his hot little hands. Now, daddy, now [...]
I’ve seen estimates of spider density (the number of spiders in a given area) that range from 11,000 spiders per acre (in woodlands) to over 1 million (some estimates go as high as 2.5 million) per acre in a grassy field. Now that’s a lot of spiders!
Here at the homestead, I don’t think we have quite so many. Oour 1/4-acre lot has its share, but I suspect that the combined footprint of the swimming pool and the house skew the numbers downward. Nevertheless, they are quite visible lately. The autumn months (even in the “autumn-less” land of Florida), particularly [...]
One of the most familiar spiders to Florida residents is the spiny orb weaver, Gasteracantha cancriformis. You’ll see people flailing their arms wildly after running into their webs all the time. This actually happened a lot at our old house, because these little guys make fairly large webs, and they loved to decorate our front porch back at the old house. They were so abundant in the fall that I’m tempted to call it our halloween spider; they might as well have been our trick-or-treat decorations.
This fall, though, at the new place, they’re a bit more scarce, although [...]