a thing going around Instagram where you post a collage of your top nine photos from 2017, ranked by likes. Here’s mine:
As determined by 2017bestnine.
Maybe not surprisingly, there wasn’t much overlap with what
I considered my best photos! I couldn’t quite narrow them down to nine, but here they are, in chronological order.
A “lifer”, the peppered jumping spider Pelegrina galathea, spotted on the West Toronto Railpath in May. I find its patterns inexpressibly beautiful.
A small wolf spider, perched at the top of a blade of grass, is “ballooning”—releasing threads of silk so light that it can be caught by the breeze and carry her on the wind, like a kite. Very proud I managed to even get the silk in this shot.
This summer I finally began regularly finding Habronattus decorus on the City Hall green roof, after a lone sighting years ago. They live in the sedums—lawn-height to us, a forest to them. Here you can see the bright red colour of the male’s abdomen.
SURPRISE, MOTHERFUCKER. Flower crab spiders are so well camouflaged I only spot them when they have prey, like this Misumena (probably) who captured a honeybee on the City Hall green roof.
Humber Bay Park West is full of spotted orbweavers (genus Neoscona). Up close they’re stunning, with intricate patterns in flecks of white, gold, red, and blue-black. This one was perched in some staghorn sumac.
Long-jawed orbweavers (genus Tetragnatha) have an interesting mating style: face-to-face, jaws locked together, dangling from a thread. Often at night, too, which makes it hard to get good pictures of, but I luckily stumbled across these in tall grass on an August afternoon. The male (right) is maneuvering a pedipalp to deposit sperm into the female’s genital opening.
This bold jumping spider ( Phidippus audax) lived in a hole in the railing across from the Sunnyside Gus Ryder pool. I would look for it every time I passed by, and it would eat insects out of my hand. Like bluegills (found in nearby High Park), bold jumpers’ friendliness and curiosity are disarming.
Spiders are not the only arachnids; other orders include mites and ticks, scorpions, and many strange and obscure creatures, like pseudoscorpions. These tiny, harmless creatures look like mites with scorpion claws. They’re not uncommon, but so tiny that they’re rarely seen. I have found several (like this one) under rocks in my front yard, where they face off with oribatid mites and tiny baby centipedes.
I had seen pictures of this before, but this fall was the first time I saw it in real life! It’s a cellar spider ( Pholcus phalangioides) carrying her ball of eggs in her jaws. I got to watch over several days as the eggs developed and then hatched. First the tiny spiderlings clung to their old eggs, making a little ball of spiders, and then they stayed for some time clustered near mama spider before wandering off on their own.
Another first-time spotting: a woodlouse hunter, Dysdera crocata, maybe 1 cm long. It uses its strong, sharp fangs for piercing the shells of pill bugs, a. k. a. potato bugs, roly-polies, woodlice, etc.
A grey cross orbweaver ( Larinioides sclopetarius is tucked away in a silk nest, possibly to overwinter.
In addition, I added several spiders to my “life list” (actually a Google Docs spreadsheet), including the
parson spider (; the Herpyllus ecclesiasticus) ghost spider (; the Wulfila) trashline orbweaver (; and the Cyclosa) bronze jumping spider (. Eris)
Hopefully this gives you some idea of the diversity of Toronto’s spiders! I didn’t have to go far to find these spiders; they are nearly all within walking distance of condo towers and busy streets, thriving right alongside us. Isn’t that amazing?