Thursday, January 05, 2012

Spider comes a-courtin'

Yesterday I was in my backyard, and the movements of a spider caught my eye. A brown funnel-web spider was running around the outskirts of a web on the Indian Hawthorne bush. I had never seen this behavior before, so I watched to see what it was doing. It circled the perimeter of the web a couple times and then headed for the funnel center, which in this case was also a rolled-up leaf. But at the entrance, there was another spider that, apparently, did not want any visitors. I could tell by now that the intruder was a male, and I could only guess that the occupant was a female who seemed to be rejecting his advances. He was not ready to give up. He approached the entrance again, slowly this time, and waited. I took a chance and ran inside for my camera. When I came out, he was still there.
  Patiently waiting "May I come in?"
  patiently waiting Another view
  She's in there From this view you can just make out the legs of the female way back in the leaf.
  Room for two He made it in!
  gaining entry Side view of the male inside the leaf-funnel. He stayed in there for a long time. At least a couple of hours. This morning, when I remembered to check again, he was gone. The female was alone, way in the back of her funnel home.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Bugs in the wall

On today's home improvement agenda: removal of the wall paneling, in order to put in some insulation (it faces the west, and gets really warm) and also to run some electrical conduit. Looks like there may be some plumbing upgrade happening in there, too, but I digress. I want to document my findings of bugs in the wall. OK, it's not Al Capone's vault, but it's all I've got for now.
  the bare studs So, here's the wall.

How bugs get in
Those dark open areas lead to a little closet outside where our water heater is. It also looks like a really good place for bugs to find their way in. Of course I found ants. Here in SoCal, we are pretty much overrun with Argentine ants, Linepithema humile.  I tried to take pictures of them, but they are tiny and they never stop moving. There were at least two columns of them, marching along the studs on either side of the fireplace.
  spider, exposed There were also numerous daddy long-leg spiders, Pholcus phalangioides. This was no surprise to me, since I often see them in corners, often with little piles of discarded ant husks beneath their cobby webs. But the evidence suggests that these spiders have been making their home in the walls for a very long time.
  a tangle of arms and legs Here is the evidence. Lots of exoskeletons. A jumble of skinny legs from who knows when.  There were more piles similar to this on many of the horizontal surfaces within the wall.
  evidence of carpet beetles Also entombed was a carpet beetle larva. (Anthrenus sp.)  Was this a spider's prey, or just another exoskeleton in the pile?
  spider exoskeleton Here's an exoskeleton of a different spider. A black widow, perhaps? I also saw what looked like black widow egg cases.
  shy spider And then I saw this. She was trying to hide from my flashlight. I think she was a black widow.  (update:  I removed her later.  There was no hourglass on her underbelly, so she must have been a "false widow", Steatoda sp.)

  A chrysalis! My surprise of the day was finding the shell of a mourning cloak chrysalis within the wall!

  Mourning Cloak Chrysalis shell
Was it from the caterpillars we had last spring, or some time earlier? What became of the butterfly? Clearly, this piece of evidence asks more questions than it answers.
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