To the casual observer, many mites are just mysterious little red dots. Gardeners and farmers will be familiar with the spider mite family, Tetranychidae. These mites are plant-eaters, and many are major agricultural pests worldwide.
But there are so many other kinds of mites—more than you know. More than I know! More than even acarologists (mite scientists) know. They have described about 50,000 species, but they think there are probably at least a million in total.1 If you take a closer look at the little red dots running around, you can find many different kinds, occupying many different ecological niches, all unique and delightful to watch. Continue reading Know Your Little Red Mites: A Guide
This winter I have tried to get into the habit of getting a coffee and a pastry at the White Squirrel and going for walks around Trinity-Bellwoods, just to get out of the house. There haven’t been bugs, but there are sometimes Fancy Birds: finches (house or purple, I’m not sure), woodpeckers, and once a Cooper’s hawk. Today it was quite nice and to my surprise there were flies and midges in the air, red velvet mites crawling in the soil, and the first spiders out and about! Continue reading Field journal: First spiders of spring in Trinity-Bellwoods
You don’t need a DSLR, professional science equipment, or even a really expensive smartphone to get up close with spiders (or any other bugs). I’ve been using my cheap-ass smartphone and gear cobbled together from the dollar store for years. So, here’s what I’m using right now, as well as some recommendations for other stuff I’ve used in the past. Continue reading My spidering kit
Summer spidering season is well underway, and I’m no longer turning over pineconesin search of spiders. But I just stumbled across this 2016 blog post by Rod Crawford (of Seattle, WA’s Burke Museum) about Laurel Ramseyer’s research! Since 2008 she’s been sampling fallen pinecones for spiders—apparently a niche unexplored till now. This turned up the first record of the jumping spider Pseudoeuophrys lanigera in North America and has also proved useful for tracking the range of the crab spider Ozyptila praticola.
In 2015, Ramseyer and Crawford wrote a paper summarizing their findings about the pinecone-dwelling spiders of Washington State. A lot of mesh-web weavers (family Dictynidae), ground spiders (Gnaphosidae), sheet-web weavers and dwarf spiders (Linyphiidae), and cobweb spiders (Theridiidae). A lot different from all the running crab spiders (Philodromus) in my lakeside pinecones. They also mention finding a lot of Euryopis, a spider I’ve failed to find at all in my area despite seeing their distinctive tufty egg sacs all the time. Maybe that’s where I should be looking.
Well, I’m back. Much like a tarantula, I felt the need to seal myself into a burrow for several months on end for no particular reason. This isn’t even close to covering the backlog. But here is a sprinkling of arachnid-related art, news, and science from the last several months, including:
I just love red velvet mites—their soft, plush coats, their Shar-Pei wrinkles, that eye-popping red. Until now, all I’d really seen of their behaviour was eating midges, aphids, and other small insects. But recently I saw something quite astonishing for the first time. Continue reading Field journal: Sumo mites
“Like Rodney Dangerfield, obsessive collectors get no respect. The word ‘trainspotter’, which refers to a railway enthusiast, is, in British English, synonymous with ‘loser’, and there is indeed something slightly tragic about someone who spends all their free time looking for things the rest of us find pointless.”
A few days ago, suffering from cabin fever, I went down to the Sunnyside boardwalk to flip rocks and see what I could find. Pickings were meagre at first, but I struck pay dirt with a pinecone! Pinecones will now be part of my winter spider-hunting repertoire. Continue reading Field Journal: A Sunnyside pinecone