Jewel on Legs

Forest orbweb spider, Novaranea, a New Zealand native. Found on a Jerusalem artichoke leaf in my garden. Good large.

Yesterday several people seemed surprised at the number of books on spiders that I have on my close-to-hand bookshelf. My interest in spiders goes back a long way to when I was a small child. At first it was entirely mercenary. Somebody told me that if I protected a money spider wealth would come to me. As I had no idea which one was the money spider I protected all spiders. Admittedly, I was terrified of the water spiders (leg span 70mm) that ran across the surface of our swimming pool in the creek, but I grew to love all spiders.

Not knowing how to look for spiders I saw only the ones that presented themselves, ordinary spiders such as the wolf spider, or the garden orbweb spider. Then one summer my curiosity about the native mason wasp (Pison spinolae) got the better of me. The wasp's high pitched whine as it built its clay nest in crevices of the outhouse always got my attention. To use a catchword of post-earthquake Christchurch I deconstructed a nest. Inside were the most beautiful spiders imaginable. They were like jewels. The wasp paralyses and entombs orbweb spiders for her young to eat. I had seen only the brown introduced Australian ones, not knowing that our native species were more colourful and better concealed.

Today's shot is not the best because the light was poor. If the light had been good I would not have seen the spider. It was the yellow stripe along her back that caught my eye. Had the sun been shining that stripe would have looked like a thin strip of sunshine between the shadows of two leaves, or the vein of a leaf. The variation in their markings from spider to spider makes them unpredictable.

Here is another member of this family. This one shelters on dead or coloured leaves.

By the way, in case you are wondering, I never did get wealthy.

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