Bruce Blake, an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in twenty years, and I took a short stroll through a small riverine forest which grows close to our holiday house in Southbroom, KZN. Not more than 800m was covered by us in around 3 hours as there was so much to see in this dense humid environment. We hardly spoke a word in that time, each absorbed by the small wonders at every turn. We had spent many hours in the veld together during our school years and it was a truly wonderful experience to rekindle our bond. Bruce is a very knowledgeable horticulturalist working for the greater Durban Metropolitan Parks Department. He also specialises in macro photography. See: Bruce Blake’s Small World on Facebook….brilliant photographs of indigenous subjects.

I took these photos with my cellphone.

Neil Parkin

Stanford

Family Thomsidae ( crab spiders). Camaricus Nigrotesselatus) Photo: Neil Parkin

Family Thomsidae ( crab spiders). Camaricus Nigrotesselatus) Photo: Neil Parkin

Crab spiders (Family Thomisidae) are great camouflage artists who do not spin webs to catch prey but lie in ambush on plants and grasses, blending into their surroundings. Although seemingly sluggish, when prey is near they pounce swiftly and are able to kill insects and other spiders much larger than themselves. Their venom is potent and able to kill a bee within seconds. They are widely distributed in South Africa and are easily distributed by wind. With about 360 species found in Africa, there is a great range in size and colour.

 

Crab spiders are diurnal and are so called because of their ability to move sideways and backwards. Also, their two front legs are longer than their hind legs. They suck their prey dry, holding the carcass in a life-like position which offers them some protection from their enemies. Because they play an important role in the control of pests such as aphids, red spider mites, thrips and other insects, their presence should be encouraged. They in turn are preyed upon by birds and other invertebrates, especially the pompilid wasps.

 

Long-spinnered bark spider. Photo: Neil Parkin

Long-spinnered bark spider. Photo: Neil Parkin

Long Spinnered Bark spiders (Family Hersiliidae) are usually found resting upside down on the bark of trees, blending into their environment as they range in colour from grey to brown to speckled black. They are 5-10mm long, have two long spinnerets protruding far beyond their abdomens and are harmless. Their legs are spread-eagled in a star-like shape.

 

They spin a light spread of silk over an area of bark to catch their prey which they then encase in a shroud of silk, rotating their spinnerets rapidly across and around the victim. They are diurnal and harmless to humans.

 

Thalassius spinosissimus (Fishing Spider). Photo: Neil Parkin

Thalassius spinosissimus (Fishing Spider). Photo: Neil Parkin

Fishing spiders (Family Pisauridae, Sub-family Thalassinae) live near ponds and pools of fresh water and can often be seen drifting on the water surface. Rapid movers, the larger species prey on tadpoles and even small fish. They are diurnal, harmless to humans and are medium to large spiders (8-30mm) with a leg span that can reach 60mm.

Sources:

http://www.scienceinafrica.com/old/index.php?q=2004/november/crabspider.htm The crab spiders of Africa by Prof Ansie Dippenaar-Schoeman

Filmer’s Spiders: An identification Guide for Southern Africa: Martin R Filmer revised by Norman Larsen

Viv