Mother love in the wilderness

Here’s a hold-over from my visit to White Mountains National Park a few weeks ago: a beautiful spider-web and its resident family.

The web, shining in the sunlight in the camping ground, caught my eye and when I investigated I saw that the piece of dead grass suspended above it was a spider’s retreat overflowing with spiderlings.

Spider web
Spider web

When I disturbed it, the mother ran out to protect them – which was either brave or foolish, since her own body was only the size of a peppercorn – but all I did was take a few photos and leave them in peace.

spiderlings
Mother heading for her family
spiderlings
Gather round, children!

Trying to identify her brought me only limited success. Just by looking at her size, shape and web, I’m fairly sure she belongs to Theridiidae (see photos of Australian members of the family on flickr), the comb-footed spiders. Beyond that, my guess at her genus would be Parasteatoda, but it’s only a guess. I’m not too embarrassed about that since the latest Field Guide estimates that we have only identified about 4 000 of the 15 – 20 000 species of Australian spiders.

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