Wolf spider

Posted: Wednesday 26 March 2008
by Richard Jones

The first ladybird of the year, a seven-spot, sunned itself on the ivy. And one of my favourite spiders is back.

Wolf spider - Pisaura mirabilisDespite the weather's attempts at snow over the Easter weekend, everything is now on the move in my garden. The rhubarb and peony are vying with each other to produce the longest and reddest shoots. A wren seems to be taking special interest in the thicket of climber on the fence. The first ladybird of the year, a seven-spot, sunned itself on the ivy. And one of my favourite spiders is back.

Pisaura mirabilis is a beautifully sleek and elegant creature, dusky grey with a beige streak down its back. It's one of the 'wolf' spiders and instead of catching flies in a web it sits motionless on a leaf and pounces on anything that lands too close. It's very common, but I always get a thrill watching it.

By the time I'd got my camera to take a picture, the spider had adopted its tense ready-to-run pose, all legs outstretched feeling for vibrations and able to scuttle out of sight in a second. When it waits patiently for its prey, it adopts another posture - leaning to one side, slightly asymmetrical, legs curled and tucked unevenly. That way it looks much less like a spider and much more like a crisp of dead leaf - excellent camouflage.

It had chosen a good spot, the south-facing fence which catches the sun all day and where flies and all manner of other small critters come to warm themselves. And what's this? The compost bin has started to leak fruit flies; the perfect snack for a hungry spider.

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Gardeners' World Web User 27/03/2008 at 18:06

I just saw my first ladybirds of the year this week too - sunning themselves on an echium, they were definitely harlequins. Equipped with lots of spots, the killer feature was they are just enormous. I think I'm worried about them, but what with financial panic and global warming, I just felt a bit uneasy and then took photos on my phone.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/03/2008 at 09:50

Have you tried the scrapbook section on the homepage?

Gardeners' World Web User 06/04/2008 at 17:54

I was delighted to see one of our smooth snakes yesterday for the first time this year. Last year when the babies (!) arrived they seemed to be congregating in the grass at the edge of the pond and I had to rescue one that had fallen in on one occasion. Not sure whether the little ones can swim, but I wasn't taking any chances. Our resident toad was definitely taking shelter in the upturned pot (toad hall!) provided for his ease, with the snow flurries whirling around today. I do hope he's taking advantage of the small slugs which I have thoughtfully left for him - and I haven't told them where I've moved the Hostas this year, either, so I'm hoping they are safe for a few weeks at least! We are lucky to have a low dry stone wall at the bottom of the garden which is in sun most of the day and no doubt provides more places of refuge for other small creatures. I just love to share my little patch of earth with them. Incidentally we have definitely had a yellowhammer at the bird table recently (we are on the edge of a cultivated field). It was a lovely surprise. These small arrivals make life worthwhile!

Gardeners' World Web User 25/04/2008 at 08:05

Reply to Hilary: This is in danger of becoming a competition to see who has the best wildlife in their gardens. There is no way I can compete with smooth snakes and yellowhammers. You are extremely lucky to have such creatures. Having said that, there is still the chance that the most amazing things will turn up. A few years ago an osprey flew through London, presumably on its way to Scotland. Fancy being able to tick that off your garden bird list.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/06/2008 at 13:50

This "beautifully sleek and elegant creature, dusky grey with a beige streak down its back" is horrible! they get in my car and blend in with the beige interior, waiting for me to get in. then they pounce! how can i kill them? they run so fast :(

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