Wednesday, September 28, 2011


You ever wondered how spiders make love?

This is a rare site let alone shot! Spiders in that act of mating. Spider sex has been stigmatized for years. Many people assume that spiders all act like black widows and kill there mates. This is not true at all. As these spiders showed me and my wife on a lucky day a few weeks ago-- the male and female get along very well and go their separate ways after mating.

These two will get along great and part their separate ways when done. But mating can be hard for a nearly blind predator. Some species actually commit suicide as the male moves his body into the females mouth and forces her to bite him, others it can happen by accident--but this species Araneus diadematus is down right loving when it comes to mating. Other species like the big-jawed spiders that live over water lock there jaws in a kiss while mating to insure they will not bite one another. There are many species who take precautions and mate killing almost never happens. This pair mated twice while we were there giving me the chance to take some rare pictures. Spiders even have a gentle side. This is the same species that amazed scientists by building perfect webs in space after hours of practice and experimentation on the part of the spider, proving that not all there actions are programmed at birth!

This is one of the most common and certainly the most commonly seen spiders here in the Portland Oregon area. However, just getting a chance to see spiders mating is an incredible thing. I have only observed it about 4 times in my life. Photographing it twice now. So this does not happen very often. It is the right season, to see mating spiders you definitely have to think about that. Late summer early fall is a good time. And you must be very still and not frighten them as when any 2 predators come together--a serious amount of careful communication is needed to make sure intentions on both sides are clear--mate and not meal!

They come together slowly, the male and female strutting the web with signals of substance. The female is far larger then the male here, but either spider could deliver a deadly bite to one another. We watched the entire thing twice as I fumbled to get my gear ready for a good sequence of shots and just see this at the same time. It is a rare site, let alone picture! In this species there is no bondage, but in some species the female actually gets wrapped up so that the male does not get bit while mating. In this case, she simply assumes a very submissive pose and the male recognizes that very quickly. He comes in slowly ready to run but confident and soon will embrace her.

The moment just before, she is in a submissive pose. The male who has his legs out--knows this and is ready with the two organs that look like 'boxing gloves' near his mouth. These are the palps. Males and females have them but they are enlarged in males so that the male spider can deliver sperm. The male must insert his palp (usually) into the females sex organ the epigynum. This is located on the abdomen, her underside which she has exposed here in this photo.

Here he is getting ready and she shows no signs of hostility so all is good. This was amazing to see. Someday I will have 2 SLR cameras and be able to do stills as well as HD video of this kind of thing without missing anything. He holds her in an almost loving way and she for the first time since she was a spiderling, lets another spider touch her.

The whole thing is over very fast. He delivers his package of prepared sperm that he put into his palps in a sperm-web (a small silk area made for transferring sperm to his palps before mating). She will store his sperm and he will go off to possibly mate again or mate with another female. No hostility was observed with these two. I was actually surprised by how nice they were to each other. Some species even give the female an offering of food, while other males are born to die--with no mouth--they live for only one reason which is to mate and die in the process. This is not the majority however. Garden spiders are mild tempered and a good thing to have in your garden. They are also called the "Cross spider" because some color variations seem to show a clear cross shape on the back.

After mating was done the male just walked out of the females web and she maintained her submissive pose until he was out of her web. Once this was done she took to tidying up her web taking some debris which had fallen into it while she was mating and removing them. That was funny to watch.
I was fighting the sun when I took these shots, my flash and the sun crated some lighting problems that I did not have time to correct. I got this shot just as I was fumbling to setup my gear for a day of shooting and finding the Triangle spider (article below). The male probably made his sperm web last night to make necessary preparations for transferring the sperm to his mate. He was in very little danger from the female with this species, despite the fact that she was in need of a meal herself. She can wait until she has had some good meals before she lays her eggs.

(Orange A. diadematus)
(Dark, Brown A. diadematus)
The two we saw mating were the Brown variety of the same species. There is also this kind which lives side by side and even a 3rd which seems related to the shamrock spider. I am not sure if this is a "race" of the species that does not often interbreed or if the color differences are just a genetic tag like eye color in humans which can be one or the other. The only way to find out is more observation and research. Both colors have the same webs and share the same name. They also build small areas to hide from the sun during hot days and make an egg sack. This large female has probably already mated and is ready to lay her egg-sack. They only live one year and lay one egg in their lifetime.

NEXT POST WILL BE: the 'Lynx' spider


This is the hard to find Hyptiotes or Triangle Spider. It is a member of the only kind of spiders that do not have poison glands. Uloboridae. This is actually true, a non-poisons spider! A common held myth (even among experts!) is that all spiders produce toxic poison. The Uloborids do secrete some digestive enzymes into there pray but lack the traditional venom glands.

This spider can be very hard to find. I frist discovered it in Oregon in one place back in 1994. Hopeing to find it again, I returned to the same small forested area near a park and incredibly found one doing very well. What amazes me, is that I have been unable to find this species or any of it's relitives anywhere else here. There is a state park less then a mile from this small forested area which is in danger of being developed. If it is--this species which lives in a 'island' of forest may be gone forever in this area. This is very unlikely, but not impossible. I have not
conclusively identified it completely or proved that it is isolated to this area but these kind of things can and do sadly happen.

I took extensive photos before I released the spider hoping I will be able to use them to identify it and find out if possibly it exists on this small island of forest for a reason. To protect the species I am not going to tell where it is right now. For all I know it may have survived and may actually be stuck on this island of green surrounded by buildings and development. The area was logged once, but the wooded area has not been logged since at least the early 20th century--I am sure this forest area is likely well over 100 years old.

Spiders, just like all other species are put in danger by development. Sometimes a species will survive one logging cycle and live on in the area when plants and trees grow back. But not one after the other over and over. I have spent a very long time looking for this species somewhere else to confirm it is not just on this small island of forest. I have yet to find it anywhere else. It seems unlikely but not impossible. Spiders often have sporadic populations where some species live in certain places but no longer can exist where humans are due to there habitat needs or other issues. If I fail to find this spider in the near by protected park--I will definitely take steps to alert people to the fact that this spider may be holding out there and once that land is cleared--so will be the spider. I admit this is highly unlikely, but not impossible.

The tiny and hard to see Triangle spider has to be spotted among the many very common webs of the Linyphiinae species. The Linyphiinae make upside down webs and are probably the most common spider found through out the forested areas of Portland and the Northwest. (Below)

The "Money Spider"--the British name for it. Here often called the Dome spider. This is the most common species of visible spider. Since silk is everywhere from these spiders which often make webs on top of each other. It can be very hard to spot the Triangle spider in all these webs. We nearly gave up and found it only towards the end of the day. (Below--Dome Spider)

Close up of a Linyphiinae species. Very common in Forest Park and most all forested areas here in the Northwest. I may be jumping the gun here--but I have done surveys of many areas around where the Triangle spider lives and over the years never found it anywhere except this one small forested area. I hope to get an email proving me wrong and that this is a common species. Virtually gone is the large yellow Argiope aurantia in this area-- I used to find them everywhere as a kid and plan to try to locate populations again out in Beaverton where they possibly held out. Most of their habitat has been decimated and worse off poisoned by weed and insect killers. However the species is not extinct and thrives in other places in the US such as Northern California. But here in the Portland area you are very lucky to see one. I hope that is not the case with the Triangle spider. The Argiopes are large spiders and require large insect pray, this may be one reason why they are so hard to find. They also in some areas live in patches where you may find lots in one place and none in another.

A North American spider Field guide puts this family of spiders in North America but I do not think that it is not the same species as shown in the guide and I know it is not due to sexual dimorphism (large changes in colors or looks between male and female animals often leading to people thinking they found a new species). Was it brought in and got introduced to this area of forest? Is it a last hold out? I don't know, but 16 years later I found out it was still there and thriving. I hope that they don't cut down this last spit of land anyway--it could make a nice park and it is more then big enough. They made another area a park near-by--but I hope this land remains the way it is. It has a rich and diverse spider population even better then the nearby official park. Human activity is going to cause problems. I don't like it when they start paving the trails and changing the environment of a park. The point is a natural area--NOT a place to drive golf carts!

I wanted to catch every angle and way this spider acted. This is the typical pose when she sits on a twig or branch holding onto her web or to disguise when there is no web.

This little spider can RUN! I had to move my large camera with big flash gear on it very quickly to try to get a good shot of this spider. I do not leave them in the refrigerator like some people do because I think it is cruel and can also be very dangerous to the spider. If you forget it will die. So I do my best to catch shots on the move and wait for the spider to stop to catch a breath.

Usually I either don't capture a spider at all--or catch and release on scene so that the spider is not displaced from it's habitat. In this case however, I had to leave since it was getting dark so I chose to take this spider back to take detailed shots of it. I wanted to get eye shots and other details that may be very important to exact identification.

(Blend in perfectly)
This is how I found this spider--the Triangle spider is appropriately named. She makes a 'Pizza slice' shaped triangle of an orb web that often looks like another spiders dammaged web until you look close at the detail. I was able to get good shots before I captured her, this is exactly how she sat with her web on her legs. She holds it tight and waits for an insect to fly in. They blend in incredibly to the foliage around them looking like a stem or a bit of bark or even a berry as shown here. Another reason why this spider is so hard to find. The spider is just to the right of the middle of this picture--camouflage that is truly incredible.

--Web drawing coming soon--

I realized that being deep in a forest it was very hard to get good shots of her web. You have to bounce a wireless flash off the web at the right angle. You get the idea about how it makes a perfect section of an orb web only. Just a slice of a pizza. How this came about I have no idea. She then holds it from the tip with the other sides secured to foliage.

Back when I started doing survays of spiders in High school I would note the technique of each species and in each area--as they can vary--that spider uses to escape when afraid. This technique can tell you something about the most common predators in the area of that species. One common technique shared by many web building spiders is to turn into a ball and drop down very quickly onto the ground. DO NOT PICK UP a spider in this position! You may hurt the spider and also the spider is afraid and thus likely to bite you. This spider is totally harmless but in some species it is a bad idea. The best protection against spider bites is to ware gardening gloves. This 'drop technique' makes it very hard for a predator like a bird or bat to find the spider once it's in deep grass or leaves. Here is the spider after it dropped in its' escape position.

(Spider Moss farm)
I found this hanging while taking shots of other spiders on our trip. I thought it was interesting.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hit and run at 122nd and Burnside

When my wife and I heard the crash we were frightened. It was loud and less then a block away. We could make out the rear headlights of this mini-van from our deck. I grabbed my camera, and ran down to get some shots. I do consider myself somewhat of a journalist when ever my lens comes across something I think needs to be shown or happens. This crash, apparently ignored by most of the media happened right next to our building and did a lot of damage. I want to note here, normally I show spiders and shots of wildlife on this site. However, if something near by happens that is important for any reason, I will post it.

As you can see it hit the dental office with almost enough force to go through the building. What is even more outrages is that the person driving this car ran the instant the crash happened.

Thankfully, despite these serious pictures there were apparently no injuries. There very much could have been. I can't believe someone would crash their car this bad and not only walk away but run away the instant it happened. After talking to the police who had arrived about the same time as I did, I gathered the car was recently bought privately and the only occupant of the vehicle ran off. Obviously, the person who ran from this accident was probably wanted or intoxicated. I am sometimes outraged by how many anti-smoking commercials and campaigns there are out there while liqueur & booze commercials seem everywhere and drinking hard is encouraged. The impact of alcohol on people's lives these days is often very downplayed in popular culture. While smoking continues to be the target by many people as the worst thing you can do for your health or around your kids--people continue to die from alcohol poisoning and crashes like this. You do not need to be driving anything to die from alcohol at a young age. Few people know or understand this. The MANY diseases that alcohol causes are rarely mentioned. Drinking the way many young people do today is more dangerous then smoking. Even if you don't ever drive drunk. The health consequences of alcohol consumption rarely mentioned by anyone and incidences seem to go ignored by pop culture. I don't think that's a good message.

I am just glad that nobody was hurt in this crash and hope that the person who drove this car is apprehended by the police. This was totally irresponsible. We could hear them doing some kind of burnouts or something before this crash. (who does burnouts in a mini-van!) I seriously was afraid that a family might have been in this car. Thankfully there was apparently only the driver who ran on foot. I heard several stories of what they looked like but they seemed to conflict probably because there were other people walking in the area at the time. One person who was on the sidewalk nearly got hit.

The engine block was almost smashed into the cab from the force of this crash. It's incredible it did not just keep going right into the dental office building. My wife and I are glad we live on a higher floor level!

This happened right next to the Max stop at about 122nd and Burnside around midnight. Obviously, airbags probably saved the driver's life. Young people need to understand that alcohol must be respected. Knowing your limit and when it is time to quit. Taking a stand also of coarse not to drive or be in dangerous situations while drinking. I do not know if this driver was intoxicated but I would bet they were and that might also be why they ran.

I usually don't like to bring up "issues" like alcohol on this site but this one hit too close to home. Literally, in this case. The police towed the car about an hour or so after the crash. Since it was over labor day weekend, I had a hard time getting in contact with local media. After calling 2 news papers and 2 more TV stations I gave up. The phone either rang and rang or I got no call back despite the fact I was the only one there with good shots of the incident. I really want to learn more about how to contact the media and if you can get payed for pictures of local news. I have had a hard time finding clear avenues online about this. My search was frustrating. I guess these days with most people having smart-phones and stuff they are flooded with pictures and you may need the 'apps' to make it easy. I don't have a smartphone. So I just put these shots here showing what happened. I would be very grateful if anyone in the news industry would write me an email letting me know about what to do in this area when I have some footage or video that might be wanted by the news media. It's not so much the money although we really could use it. Even if I do not get payed for shots I would like my shots published where ever they can be.

Soon I will get back to publishing amazing new pictures I got. A species of triangle spider I found here in Oregon, and a rare event-- the garden spider shown in my articles, Araneus diadematus in the process of mating! That is rare site let alone shot to get. I was very lucky recently. I should have it up in a couple of weeks.