I love spring and summer! I love the weather; the long days; and lush green gardens everywhere. But most of all I love all the insects, spiders and other creepy-crawlies that are so abundant. During the winter it is so difficult to find great subjects to photograph. But at this time of the year all I need to do is walk out into the garden and look around to find something of interest. Sometimes, however, I don’t even need to leave the house…
There is a two-piece (glass and screen) sliding door in my kitchen that opens onto my deck and back garden. This door is kept open whenever it is warm enough but with the screen closed to keep the cats in and the bugs out. Last month I noticed that on most mornings there would be a number of non-biting midges (chironomids) perched on the screen. I wasn’t the only one that noticed these midges. Anyhow, I wasn’t the only one that noticed these midges. Eventually each morning one or two tiny jumping spiders (Salticus scenicus and/or Platycryptus sp.) would show up on the screen and systematically hunt down each midge.
Needless to say, I took pictures…
These spiders are really endearing in their movements and “attitude”. Jumping spiders don’t build webs to catch their prey. They hunt visually—creeping up on their prey and then pouncing on it. They will also readily hop away from threats (hence the name “jumping spiders”). Like other spiders, jumping spiders have multiple eyes (eight to be exact) but the front four are enlarged and face forward. As you can see from some of the photos on this page, the middle two eyes are especially large. These eyes are distinctive to jumping spiders. They have good vision and are very aware of their surroundings and don’t usually let you get very close, which makes photography tricky.
I shot the first series of photos using my Zuiko 35mm macro lens. That lens (when focussed to 1:1 magnification) has a working distance of only 3.5cm. I was able to get that close to the spider because it was distracted by its prey. But even when munching on a midge, the spider was clearly bothered by my presence and was quite skittish. The next series of pictures was taken after I replaced the 35mm with the Zuiko 60mm micro four thirds macro lens. The new lens has a working distance (at 1:1 magnification) of 19 cm. So the spider in the second series was much calmer, making it an easier shoot for both species! The midge still didn’t have a good time though.
Note that the spider in the first series has much different markings than the one in the second series. At first I wasn’t sure if this was just intraspecies variation or if the two spiders were different species. I learned afterwards that males are characteristically darker than females. So I assume that the spider in the first series was a male Salticus, and the one in the second series was a female Salticus. [EDIT: I was wrong! It turns out that the darker spider IS a different species: Platycryptus sp., probably P. Californicus]. Another little bit of Salticus trivia is that this species is not native to British Columbia but were introduced from Europe. Platycryptus on the other hand is a native spider.
I’ll post part 2 in a couple of days. That post will have more photos of jumping spiders on the window, but they will look considerably different. Stay tuned!
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Lens: Series 1: Zuiko 35mm macro; Series 2: Zuiko 60mm micro four thirds macro
Settings: Series 1: manual exposure (F8 @ 1/200 sec); Series 2: manual exposure (F11 @ 1/200 sec)
Lighting: Olympus RF-11 ring flash (1/8-1/4 power)