Yesterday, armed with sunglasses, some plastic vials, and my long-suffering boyfriend, I marched off to Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace, in North London) to find my first lot of wolf spiders this year.
I needed them to test out something I’m going to try incorporate into my experiments this time round – I’ll write a separate post on it later, but it involves Lego! These little spids are going to have fun!
Bribing him with the promise of a tasty lunch at the local Farmer’s Market, my boyfriend agreed to help me search, so I shared my secrets of how to find them. Actually, there’s not much to it – they like living in long grass, but come out to hunt in shorter grass, so you just sit along the border between some long and short grass, and wait for something dark and speedy to catch your eye. Wolf spiders don’t make webs; they’re active hunters, eating small insects such as flies. They also like to sunbathe, so the best time to find them is when the sun’s out!
So, we managed to catch three wolf spiders in about half an hour – not bad going! It also helps that it’s the right time of year for them – May is the time when their populations soar. Last year, the first year of my experiments, I didn’t realise this and left it too late in the summer – I managed to catch a few here and there, but it wasn’t consistent enough to generate a whole dataset from. As lovely as it should have been spending hours in the sunshine trying to find wolf spiders, it was very disheartening coming home empty-handed, so this year I’ve tried to be more prepared. It’s the last year in my PhD that I can get wolf spider data (eeeeek!) so I need to get my head down and get loads done.
The wolf spiders we caught were male Alopecosa pulverulenta (I think – I need to double-check by looking under a microscope). The first one had only seven legs – the third leg on the right was missing. The second one was an intact, full-blooded male – in fact, as I type this, he’s running round in his plastic vial looking furious. Sorry, little fella. (He’s handsome though – see the photos below!) The final one wasn’t so lucky – he’s got two legs missing, the front two left legs. I think this seemingly high percentage of males with missing legs is due to the fact that they’re competing for females – there’s probably a lot of male fights going on!
As I said, these three little spiders are going to be testing out some new exciting ideas for me this week! I’ll post an update later on how that goes.
I’m also aware that I still haven’t written a post on the general aims of my PhD research – I will do that soon, I promise!
Happy wolf spider season! 🙂
If anyone wants to help out, I’m always keen to discover new places (preferably London-based!) where wolf spiders live – so if you see any around, do drop me a line in the comments to let me know where to find them!
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