favourite moments # 1 – the spider and the cicada

I thought it might be fun to write the odd post about favourite moments of nature observation that have occurred over the past couple of years. It’ll help to pass the time spent indoors this winter as I wait to be back out observing insects, spiders, frogs and others. I have such an archive of photos that there’s no danger of it ever becoming exhausted, so this will be a nice way of sharing some of those images. This is the first in this series of posts.

On August 21, 2004, while hiking along a trail at Murphys Point Provincial Park in eastern Ontario, I stopped to shoot a few photos of a Dogday Harvestfly cicada exuviae found clinging to the underside of a Common Milkweed leaf. While I was working to get shots from different angles, I noticed something moving about inside the hard but fragile shell of the exuviae. Gradually, something began to appear in the split that occurs in the dorsal area of the exuviae when the adult cicada emerges. Notice something tiny just beginning to emerge from the cicada in the above photo (click on image for larger view).

I turned the leaf and exuviae to get a better look at whatever was inside, and to my surprise and great amusement, a small female Jumping Spider (Salticidae) peered back at me from inside her unique refuge. At first, she was a little nervous and would back far inside the exuviae when the camera came too near, but after a time, she became a little bolder. If I backed off for awhile, she would advance so that she could get a better look at what was going on outside her home. At one point, she even climbed out and stood beside the foot of the exuviae to look around (see below). She reminded me a little of someone coming outdoors to stand on their doorstep while watching something happening down the street. When I moved in closer for a couple of better shots, she quickly scurried back inside the safety of her refuge. It was truly an enjoyable moment of nature observation.

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15 Responses to “favourite moments # 1 – the spider and the cicada”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    I like this series, bev! Great idea. A very cute jumping spider and a fine choice for her refuge.

  2. Tussock Mirth Says:

    Wow! Ha ha! Wow. A fine home it is.

  3. burning silo Says:

    robin – Thanks! Isn’t she incredibly cute!

    TM – Yes, it’s really quite a beautiful home. It would probably be something like living inside a shelter designed by someone like Frank Gehry! Maybe like this building. (-:

  4. romunov Says:

    I had a similar experience with this salticid, except it wasn’t hiding inside of anything, it was patroling a rock and a grass blade, jumping after flies… I really enjoyed little bugger.

  5. burning silo Says:

    romunov — That’s a great little spider. It’s really got its eyes on you!

  6. Dave Says:

    Wow, this is gonna be a great series, I can tell!

  7. Dave Says:

    It kind of reminds me of that story in the Bible about Samson finding a honeybee hive inside the skeleton of a lion.

  8. LauraH Says:

    Great pics, Bev. I look forward to more! I’m tempted also to call that spider cute. ;-)

    Cicadas are very pretty, but their spent shells give me the heebie-jeebies for some reason.

  9. Ontario Wanderer Says:

    Great photos and observations. It pays to stop and look at tree bark and branches. Life is everywhere and I am sure it will continue long after the end of humans.

  10. Mark Says:

    Wow, what a great set of story telling shots. I have never seen this before, thanks for sharing it – terrific images.

  11. Cathy Says:

    Bev – just remarkable – what perhaps should be ghoulish is actually a little touching. Like Laura, I find the cast off shells a little creepy. Still, this little spider reminds me of a the hermit crabs we watch on Cape Cod – the way they cozy up in another’s cast-offs. These photos are wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Wayne Says:

    I guess that of all spiders, jumping spiders are my favorites. This is a charming set of photos, Bev.

    It’s just by coincidence that a couple days ago I was sitting on the back deck and having a little performance play with a tiny jumping spider hunting the deck rail. Extend finger, spider obliging jumps onto it, then off, then back on again. Repeat endlessly.

    I’m still looking for some of those with the great green chelicerae!

  13. burning silo Says:

    Dave – It’ll be fun going through some of my older photos to see what I can find. I’ll probably post one of these “favourite moments” once or twice a week through the winter.

    Laura – I believe a lot of people find cicada exuviae just a little scary. I have a couple of shots of one taken in weird light that look like something out of a sci-fi or horror movie. In fact, maybe I’ll get around to posting them too! (-:

    OW – Yes, life is everywhere — which is one of the things I remind myself when I’m out wandering around. When in unfamiliar terrain, I’m just a little less likely to find it as I’m distracted by the scenery.

    Mark – Thanks! This little series is one of my personal favourites.

    Cathy – Well, luckily, the cicada was long gone, so, as in the case of the hermit crabs, it’s just someone making a home out of recycled materials! Not much goes to waste in the natural world.

    Wayne – Jumping spiders are also among my favourites, although, as you know, I’m very partial to the big argiope as well. Isn’t it fun when a jumping spider engages in that type of activity. I had one act like that back in the springtime and it was quite amusing.
    Btw, speaking of chelicerae, I must show you this spider photographed in California in October. David Shorthouse was able to help me get a partial ID for it. It’s a male of what looks to be a species of Folding Door Spider (Antrodiaetus) (be sure to look at the larger view of this photo to check out the huge pedipalps and chelicerae. Most odd!

  14. Wayne Says:

    Wow – that’s an elegant spider, and all eight legs and other appendages as well! Those are magnificent chelicerae. They would make fine mating attractors too! I’m imagining that’s what the emerald ones are all about.

  15. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – Yes, “wow”, it *was* a most elegant spider. My friend found it moving over a bit of grass on a high, rocky promontory overlooking a place where wild waves crashed against the rocky beach in Northern California. Very odd place for a spider! It was quite a good sized spider — not really large, but about the size of a medium Wolf spider — which is what I supposed it to be at first glance until I got down to shoot some photos. I’ve never seen a spider with such large pedipalps and chelicerae. At first glance, the spider almost looked like it had 10 legs!! (-: