Arachnophobes, be warned. This post contains several pictures of a spider at fairly close range. Proceed at your own discretion.
Yesterday I went on a long and mostly uninspiring bug-walk at the arboretum. I was by myself, just scouting around for my upcoming Bug Safari tour this weekend. I really wanted to find a nice big praying mantis, but I found none. None! Maybe it's just my bad luck, but this just hasn't been a big year for the mantids. I should have kept the few that I found earlier this summer, but I didn't because I figured I could always find another one. That is proving to be harder than I thought.
So anyway, I had wandered to the far south end of the gardens, and had just started making my way back, when I noticed something moving among some tall grass stems. It was a big black jumping spider. I love jumping spiders in general, because they are about as "cute" as a spider can get, with shorter legs and bigger eyes than most other spiders. This species, Phidippus audax, can get pretty big, which (to me) just makes it "more to love".
I managed to get her into the collecting container I had brought along in case I found a mantis, after which I found another, even bigger P. audax, but that one was too fast for me. I decided to quit while I was ahead and brought her home.
After pretty much leaving her alone overnight, I decided this morning that I would feed her, and then get her out of the little mesh container and try to take her picture. She quickly caught the 2 flies I put in for her, and after she had finished eating them (or sucking the juices out of them) I tried putting her in a shallow white container, hoping that it would keep her contained and well visible for her photo shoot.
I should mention at this point, that jumping spiders are much more active than, say, orb-weavers, or black widows. (and nobody wants to see a black widow spider running around trying to climb out of a lidless shallow container!) But anyway, this spider almost never stopped moving.
She alternated between running around the container wall...
And hiding from my flash. Seriously, what if you had 8 eyes and somebody was taking your picture with a flash from 3 inches away? And you had no eyelids?
Trying to make a break for it.
She did get out a few times. After chasing her around the top of my patio table, trying not to hurt her, and wondering how much messing-with she would tolerate before she actually tried to bite me, I got the brilliant idea of just setting her down on the grass and taking her picture out there, in natural light.
My grass is short, and I was confident that I wouldnt lose her. And I was right. I was able to get a few more shots.
And here she is on my hand. You can see she's really not that big. Just about big enough, though!