Thursday, 20 March 2014

Bee tags on spiders!

I've just started what I hope will be the one of the last experiments for my PhD, which involves collecting Golden Orb Weavers and transplanting them to new sites.

I went out to La Perouse this morning to collect a few mature females for my pilot study. There is a great colony of them out there, right next to the road so it's a perfect field site (it's also a great dive spot, which is how I originally found it!).

In order to make sure that I'm looking at the same spiders once I transplant them I need to be able to identify them. So I've decided to use bee tags! Finally a skill from my honors work that I can use for my PhD (I did my honors in Perth with the CIBER bee lab).

Bee tags are very small plastic disks which are glued onto the abdomen of queen bees so that the apiarists can make sure that the queen is the original one they placed in the hive (some times hives will kill the queen and make their own).

I was worried that the spiders would be very mobile, so for the first one I put her in the fridge for 5 min to slow her down a little. This worked well, so for the next one I decided to be really brave and try the process on an "awake" spider (keeping in mind that they are very large and can move quite quickly!). Thankfully this turned out to be no problem, they were all very well behaved!
Spider now known as Yellow #1
 So now that my 5 test spiders have been marked, they will be kept in the lab over the weekend and I will release them next week. 

I would like to release them on campus so I can keep an eye on them but there are 3rd year students doing invertebrate collections at the moment so I'm not sure they would be safe...

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Missed opportunity for a "Cyclops spider"

Now this is a weird one; Family Oecobiidae Genus: Oecobius

They are very odd looking with their small bunch of eyes and flat round head.

The common names for this family are Disk web weavers or Flat-mesh weavers, both pretty boring
as far as common names go. No one ever thought to call them Cyclops spiders? I would have.

Apparently Oecobiidae meaning means "those who are house-living", still boring but it makes sense I guess!

Apparently they are quite common and live in cities (my specialty!) but I've only ever found the one, in a tiny garden in Marrcikville. I was pretty stumped when I did find it! but  I did a quick search on and worked it out (such a great website!).

Wikipedia tells me that they eat ants and that a "characteristic of the family is the anal gland; it bears a tuft of long hairs" but gives no indication of the function of these hairs...? Ah if only I had more time (and never ending research funding).

Anyway, apart from that I know next to nothing about these little guys, but I'm going to keep an eye out for them. I think most of the info on them comes from the US or Europe so it would be interesting to see if they have the same affinity to urban areas in Australia.