Day 3

I love spiders! That’s not something I thought I would say! Today I have had spiders crawling all over me, I managed to catch so many different species and I have witnessed some amazing mating behaviours!

 

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This morning I went into the field with Robert and Eamon (Spider guys) along with Cara, to survey some spiders along Smoker's Trail in the northern part of Namadgi National Park. We started the day by testing out one of Robert’s favourite techniques of using the cars vibration to bring out all of the creepy crawlies. Just a few minutes after we had pulled off the side of the road, we had dozens of spiders, beetles and cockroaches all coming streaming out of the leaf litters, heading for the car. We used this technique throughout the day and it even enticed out spiders that were meant to be day sleepers. Such a great way to bring the spiders into the open so that they are easier to catch! Although I started the day a bit wary of being too close to spiders, it was only took me a few minutes to become pro at catching spiders in vials and even holding them in my hands! I have learned that the venomous spiders are a rarity, and as long as you are slightly more cautious when poking around their environs, spiders are not as scary as I thought they were! My other favourite technique for catching spiders was to use the piece of tube and sucking the spiders into the tube to then blow it back out into the vial! Good way to accidently ingest a few spiders apparently!

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After our first stop we headed further into the Smokey Trail and spent some time hunting for a huntsman. We stopped at a very barky tree, where they are known to hang out, and we began peeling back bark to see what was hiding in behind. We also learned the technique of sweeping the leaf litter and collecting it into a tray. Unfortunately no huntsman’s were to be found at this site, so we were off to a sunny spot further down the trail. 

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Our next site was the most successful! We were lucky enough to have a park ranger come past and spend some time with us, and her vehicle provided enough extra vibration that the spiders were running around madly! We found lots of huntsman’s and prowling spiders, an assassin’s beetle, a velvet ant and a brown snake! 

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Part of our plan today was to collect spiders that we could bring back to our camp to observe their behaviours. Cara and I collected some leaf litter to make an arean (thunderdome) and we had a couple of dozen spiders that we were going to release into our arena and see what they would do. We had a few jumping spiders who apparently put on a good display when they are trying to intimidate each other and we had a few male/female couples who we thought might try to woo each other! We managed to spend a couple of hours observing (and laughing at our poor attempt at doing such a scientific study) a few different combinations of spiders and we had one pair fight and then mate and another pair mate immediately. It was crazy to watch! The male spiders spin web on the females face and front legs while mating, to stop her from moving or biting him. 

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Today was such an informative day, I have learned a lot from Robert and Eamon, about mating behaviours, identifying spiders based on whether or not they can walk upside down on glass and how the position of their many eyes tells you so much about the species. Tomorrow we have a community day at Canberra Botanic Gardens so we will be heading in with all of the scientists to get the locals involved in surveying and caring for their local biodiversity!