Just when you thought spiders couldn't get any cooler...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 13 May 2012 10:31

Wow. We had an AWESOME day at Iping yesterday. Andy Philips, Dave & Penny Green and my house mate Simon went out to Iping, partly for some spider recording/training but also to set up some monitoring that will hopefully happen there this year. In the car on the way over there, Andy talked about how great it would be to find Aellurilus v-insignitus. After a slow start that built up over the afternoon, Andy found a mature male in the small quarry! Latent heat was low, so photographing specimens in the shade was relatively easy. You can't quite see it but this nationally scarce spider had the most amazing metallic green eyes. The double V mark on the head is diagnostic. It's likely to be a new record for the site.
I had a ladybird tick, the rather drab Larch Ladybird Aphideita obliterata that I beat of a Scots Pine.
Back to the spiders. Dave found the only specimen of the remarkable Thomisus onustus we saw all day (go Dave!). This is the first one I have seen in Sussex and only the second one I have ever seen. What is really strange is that it was hanging under the flower heads of Hare's-tail Cottongrass. It had turned almost white in order to camouflage itself. What insects are likely to becoming near this plant though? None I would expect, so perhaps the spider will go hungry for now. It does demonstrate a point though, just how important nectar sources are in a heathland, they are often in short supply. We only saw one small patch of cottongrass and only one of this nationally scarce crab spider too.
Another nationally scarce heathland specialist was this striking wolf spider Xerolycosa nemoralis which I found in the small quarry. Yet another tick but one known to be in this exact spot by Andy!
And this cryptically patterned spider, although not a tick for me, is a cracking looking thing. It almost disappears when it stops moving. Arctosa perita.
There were so many scarce invertebrates that we didn't have time to photograph including Ampedus sanguinolentus, Ampedus elongantulus, Slave-making Ants, Salticus zebraneus (Andy found one on pine) and Micaria subopaca (I found one on pine). Finally, Andy found the saproxylic dermestid Megatoma undata on a pine trunk which is nationally scarce. No photo I'm afraid, but it was a smart beetle. I haven't finished identifying everything yet but I have breached the 3900 barrier. In fact, I am currently on 3911, only 89 species away from 4000! I added a minimum of 15 species. Today, I'm heading for Cowdray to have a look for some more saproxylic beetles...

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