Southern Marsh Orchids

Southern Marsh Orchids

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Creature feature - spider of the week!

Insect activity is probably as low as it gets around this time of year, but there is always an arachnid or two around if you look hard enough!  One of the groups you are most likely to see are the spiders of the genus Pardosa, in the Lycosidae family (often known as Wolf spiders).  They are easy to recognise to genus level by their appearance; generally medium sized with obviously hairy stout banded legs and a very distinctive eye pattern.  They are found running rapidly across almost any low level warm surface that gets plenty of sun, and the females may carry a silk egg sac with them.  A binocular microscope is needed to determine Pardosa to species level though.

Even a brief spell of sunshine provided it is enough to warm the open ground they prefer will often bring out significant numbers of these spiders; the temperature is 7 degrees outside and I have just counted more than twenty Pardosa spiders basking in the sun on a 2 metre stretch of gravel.

I've also been using the winter evenings to go through some specimens that I collected last summer.  One of them was Pardosa hortensis:
Pardosa hortensis - sorry about the photo!
It is an uncommon find for Wales, and indeed looks like it is one of a handful of records this side of the border though I have a recollection that there may be a couple of sites in the west of VC41 where it has been recorded.


And if Nigel happens to be reading this, there was another Bombus terrestris in the garden today.  It looks as though they are successfully over-wintering here.  This time it was feeding on a Grevillea which is blooming right now.


  1. Similar conditions in my Llandaff North garden today brought out a Drone fly (Eristalis tenax) - my first hoverfly of the year, and also a Green Shieldbug (though still in its brown winter attire). Didn't see any wolf spiders though.

  2. Excellent "Buff-tailed" Bumblebee record, hope you have put it on the BWARS website with Grevillea as another winter nectar plant.

    You may have missed that I put a comment on the last bumblebee discussion that I saw a Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) in a Broadlands, Bridgend garden on 11/1 while cutting someone's Lavender hedge. It flew in to investigate the colourful Hamley's plastic bag carrier bag I was putting the prunings in, and came within a couple of feet of me.

    It was not very big so I have no idea whether it was a small queen or a surviving worker.

    Haven't seen a bumblebee since....

  3. It is on the BWARS database now Nigel! I did see your post on the Tree Bumblebee. The only one of those that I have seen before was one that someone had fished out of a rotting tree near the FSC centre in Shropshire! Are they ones that have arrived relatively recently in the UK?

  4. Yes, first identified in UK in 2001, and first seen in Wales by George T in 2009. I have said all this before I am sure. A bumblebee with a serious attitude which managed to arrive in Iceland in 2008. Likes building colonies in bird nest boxes. Only recorded for the first time in Scotland last year 2013.

    Loads of them in Bridgend last summer in June when I took my car in for MOT and walked back to my house c 1.5 km from the centre of town to the west I think I counted 15 front gardens with them in feeding on flowering Hebe and one of those big blue germanium species along with pratorum and lucorum mainly.

    Both hypnorum and pratorum are amongst the earliest species to set up colonies and I think coped with the deluge of 2012 much better than most. Apparently if the season is good they can both set up second colonies after June/July, although I am only aware of knowing pratorum do it.

    Whereas hypnorum appears to do something rather odd by producing queens and drones in June/July and then disappearing of the face of the earth for the queens to reappear in reasonable numbers in Sept/Oct before they go into hibernation. Whether they go into a short pre-hibernation sleep period during late Jul/August which is inclined to be a nectar drought period anyway I do not know.

    I actually saw a nuptial flight land on the 3rd storey windowsill of the Wildlife Trust office in Cardiff Bay last year.

    Look out for an over sized carder bee in April, if you see the front end first, head and thorax are all buff brown (carder bee like), then you realise the abdomen is black, and there is a variable white tip to the abdomen can be quite wide or very narrow.

    Trying to id a mixed group of workers is a curse when they are actively feeding with their heads down and their abdomens in the air because they all look like lucorum agg. And you have to wait for a better look when they move, which is a problem if you are trying to count a dozen or so at the same time.

    I am sure they are in Rhoose, just wait until late March/April.

  5. Since arriving in our Llandaff North garden in 2009 they have increased yearly, and are now among the commonest bumblebees visiting flowers in our garden in late spring and early summer. They particularly like our Cotoneaster and Raspberry flowers.


  6. First bumblebee for me in February today, a buff-tailed B. terrestris queen, who got grounded outside our café at Parc Slip, but happily flew off my finger a minute or two later. Not much food about for her.

  7. There's something special about the first finds of your favourite taxa for the year isn't there? Hints of better things to come hopefully. Spotted my first hoverfly of 2014 yesterday, which like George's was the ubiqitous Eristasis tenax. I also found more Tegenaria agrestis which I posted about back in January ( suggesting they are quite abundant in suitable habitat locally.

    Here's hoping for another summer like 2013!

  8. It was only the first bumblebee for February as opposed to the first for the year, but that is obvious from previous posts. 2014 could be year when I see bumblebees in every month 1-12 as was the case 2002-2007.

    But there is a scary paper in the latest Nature journal which does to show how many problems they really do face....

  9. Yes, I should have read that a bit more closely Nigel!