some weeks, this feature pretty much writes itself.  last week’s katipo was inspired by current events, but rarely has a specific webnesday subject presented itself as irrepressibly as this one.
back in march, we did a lovely five-hour hike along the west coast of auckland, north of the waitakere ranges, which will be the subject of a separate post with many more photos.  one of the things we – well, maybe i, and the others mostly from the fact that i kept stopping to take photos – noticed was the great abundance of nursery-webs in the shrubs.  the webs look like this, and really did appear in astonishing density.

according to the forsters, these are the nursery-webs of Dolomedes minor (family Pisauridae), close relatives of the forest-and-stream-dwelling D. aquaticus and ‘D. species III’ earlier featured here (actually, i just discovered that i never got around to ‘D. species III’ – stay tuned!).  they mention that the females, after carrying their large egg-sacs around for about five weeks, construct these tents for the spiderlings to hatch into (actually, they hatch inside the egg-sac about a week before the web is built, but remain within it until contained within the nursery-web).  the females then remain with the webs for a further week, hiding somewhere below during the day but often on the web itself at night and visible by flashlight (how i wanted to take this hike again with a flashlight… !).
imagine my surprise, then, when over the past weekend, on another walk on the central plateau, a pristine nursery-web caught my eye and proved occupied, in broad daylight!

i suspect that this female may have been lured into the open by the prospect of a large meal, although i couldn’t get close enough to tell who her hapless dinner had been (other than an almost equally large spider).  in any case, i was very excited to be able to pair up these D. minor photos with the web-photos from the earlier walk.
and then the pebbles sent me an email from work, saying that one of his colleagues had found an enormous spider in his laptop bag (thanks, allan!) and that another colleague had trapped it – in her cupped hands, no less – and saved it for me (thanks, nat!).  they tentatively identified it as ‘nursery-web,’ and sure enough… look who it was.

isn’t she stunning?  i can’t really explain what she was doing in a computer bag, but i’m very glad she turned up there, particularly since the pebbles’ colleagues are both kind-spirited and well aware of my arachnophilia.  :)  after her photo session, and after turning down a large dinner offering (not sure whether she was just tired of being in a box, or not hungry, or whether the offering was perhaps a bit too big – it went to feed my sister’s axolotls in the end), she was released into our garden under cover of darkness.  i followed her explorations with a flashlight for a few minutes (recommended by the forsters, after all), and was amazed to see that when she was facing the light, even from a distance of 1-2 meters, i could see pinpricks of light reflecting from her eyes.  i had read about a similar effect in lycosids (“torchlight is reflected by a special layer of crystalline cells called a tapetum at the back of their eyes,” p. 81), but while not actually discounting it, had wanted to see it sometime for myself.  and i have to say, seeing spider eyes glowing in the dark ranks pretty high on the list of cool spider revelations that webnesday has brought me in its time.  here are a few more parting pics:

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