I know Halloween is over a month away, but for me, September is the month for spiders. It’s a little like spring for bird watchers. Adults are at their “attract a mate” best, making them easy to spot and interesting to observe.
The first spider I spotted was this large (about 2 inches across), handsome male grass spider.
Male grass spider. September 2014. Vancouver, WA. Click to enlarge.
The dried-up front lawn teems with little wolf spiders. Some skittered up the side of the house.
Female wolf spider. September 2014. Vancouver, WA. Click to enlarge.
Most spiders I observe throughout the year come and go. A few manage to survive long enough in one spot to receive a name. This year we have Freida, a female grass spider, living in an impressive funnel in a garden box next to the garage. She wouldn’t come out for photos today.
Frieda the grass spider’s house. September 2014. Vancouver, WA. Click to enlarge.
Our worm bin hosts many cobweb weavers. These spiders typically have round abdomens and prefer dark places. This lovely female is guarding four egg cases.
Cobweb weaver and egg cases. September 2014. Vancouver, WA. Click to enlarge.
If you looked closely, you may have noticed that she is not just guarding egg cases, but spiderlings as well.
Egg case and spiderlings. September 2014. Vancouver, WA. Click to enlarge.
My favorite September spiders are the Araneus Diadematus, or European Cross spiders. These are the beauties that build the big orb webs around the garden in the autumn.
Araneus diadematus. September 2014. Vancouver, WA. Click to enlarge.
Know how to tell a male spider from a female? Here’s a little spidery lesson for you. You know that spiders have eight legs, four on each side. If you look closely, you will see that the also have what look like two short legs in front. These are called pedipalps, often shortened to palps.
Can you spot the palps? Click to enlarge.
Female spiders, like the wolf spider in the photo above, have palps that are short and straight. They are mostly used for carrying and maneuvering prey. This is also true for immature males. Mature males have palps that have little round knobs on the ends, almost like little boxing gloves. They are part of the male spider reproductive system.
Male cobweb weaver. Can you spot the palps? Click to enlarge.
So, there you go. Now you know how to tell a male spider from a female!