This spider is pretending to be a beetle

Piotr Naskrecki
Coccorchestes ferreus by Piotr Naskrecki

Jumping spiders are known to imitate ants – and some of these clever mimics can be found in the UK. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen a beetle-mimic.

The species is Coccorchestes ferreus which is mostly found in New Guinea, and very rarely on mainland Australia.

Spiders by post – that’s got to be cruel, hasn’t it?

In a bizarre news item, the BBC reports:

A man has admitted sending a rare venomous spider in a package to a colleague at work. Mahlon Hector, 22, of Leicester delivered the Mexican red-kneed tarantula in a box addressed to a Marks & Spencer branch in Leicestershire. Hector handed in his resignation after dropping off the parcel at the Fosse Park store.

Mexican red-kneed tarantula

Now that’s curious enough. Curiouser still, however:

A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: “The spider may also have suffered and we would have pursued the matter under animal cruelty legislation but it does not cover invertebrates.”

How crazy is that? Just look at that cute, furry spider and imagine it being shaken up in a box for some weird practical joke! What if it was one of those sweet little grey squirrels, or rats? People would be marching in the streets, probably led by Sir Paul McCartney. Well, the spider was probably OK, but the Ranger is very fond of spiders, and was startled to learn that there’s no way in law to be cruel to invertebrates. Perhaps there’s room for one more pressure group? No more flyswats! Ban the beer-trap! Calamari and prawns will be off the menu when the Invertebrate Cruelty Act is finally passed…

First published 2006. Republished with corrections 2013.

An enormous jumping spider

Jumping spiders are, on the whole, pretty tiny things. And I say ‘pretty’ deliberately as they are amongst the cutest, funniest and most decorative of spiders. The game of ‘hide and seek’ with a passing zebra spider never grows old. But what if they were bigger? A lot bigger? They’d be irresistibly cute, surely! Well, Hyluss diardi, a south-east Asian species, is one of the biggest jumpers there is, growing up to 10mm long. And here he is:


See a further video here.

Is Eresus the cutest spider on earth? Send me to find out.

The worlds’s cutest spider. It’s a hard-fought contest, with the jumping spiders invariably on the podium. But I’ve got a soft spot for another family altogether, the eresids or Velvet Spiders. I think they’ve been unfairly overlooked and I’m going to see if I can redress the balance.

The UK’s only eresid is the Ladybird Spider Eresus sandaliatus, of which I have written before. I’ve never seen one, and there’s a chance I shan’t ever do so as it’s fearsomely rare in this country.

Eresus sandaliatus
Eresus sandaliatus

But hold on, there might be hope – both for the spiders and me. There’s now a Buglife campaign to increase the tiny population of this delightful, but very rare, animal. I recently found out that Buglife give an unusual promise “For donations over £1000 we can arrange a visit to a site for you to see the Ladybird spider in its natural habitat and experience this important conservation project first hand” So I’m starting a campaign to donate £1000 to Buglife for this wonderful spider. All donations gratefully received, if we get to £1000 I shall write, photograph and blog the visit ad nauseum. It might take a while but I intend to get there!

Continue reading Is Eresus the cutest spider on earth? Send me to find out.

Nick Baker breaks the fourth wall with ‘Beautiful Freaks’

The first time the Virtual Ranger met Nick Baker he was presenting prizes at the British Wildlife Photography Awards. Stricken with a streaming cold, he manfully posed for photos and shook hands with sponsors before pulling out of his hat a masterful extemporised address to the assembled photographic dignitaries.

Nick Baker and a crab

And whereas the government minister and the CEO of a big environmental body had both slipped away to their taxis almost before the flashbulbs had cooled, it was Nick Baker who stayed to sign autographs and chat with passing bloggers, and indeed was still standing animatedly discussing the details of moth physiology with one of the photographers as the gallery was being closed up. Continue reading Nick Baker breaks the fourth wall with ‘Beautiful Freaks’

Why do spiders come indoors in the autumn?

A perennial question on this site’s popular Ask the Ranger facility is “Where do spiders go in the winter?” (So much so that the answer is given on the same page and can be found here). At this time of the year, however, more direct approaches to The Ranger are common, as spiders start appearing indoors all over the place and startled home-owners seek advice from their nearest spider enthusiast. So The Ranger was prepared when Naturenet designer Cat posed the question “Where do spiders come from in the autumn?”, or, more specifically, why is Cat’s flat filling up with spiders?

Tegeneria in Cat's bath © Cat James

The spiders use Cat’s bath more than she does!

On investigation it did indeed seem as though Cat’s place was a great attraction for one of the largest spiders in the UK – Tegenaria gigantea. In her bath was an impressive male spider; and further searching, urged on from a distance by Cat, revealed two more similar males hiding in the kitchen sink. These two seemed to have fallen out with each other, and despite having somewhere lost two legs each, were intent on combat.

Removing a spider © Cat James

Cunning use of a beaker and a postcard of Frankie Howerd!

Using suitable equipment it is usually possible to capture even the largest specimen safely, and all three of the spiders were put in a plastic box safely. But this still leaves some of those questions that The Ranger is often asked – and here come the answers. Continue reading Why do spiders come indoors in the autumn?

Giant, venomous, invading alien spiders… again.

Oh, no! An Australian town has been terrorised by giant, venomous spiders.

How the eastern tarantula story appeared in the Times Online.
How the eastern tarantula story appeared in the Times Online.

Newspapers all around the world are recounting the ordeal of the town of Bowen, Queensland – the town recently made famous by Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia – with perhaps a little more relish than is strictly necessary:

“Super-sized tarantulas are spinning a web of terror in a town in Australia.” (Sky News) “Locals have been shocked by the size of the giant venomous spiders that have invaded an Outback town in Queensland” (The Times, Fox News) “It sounds like a remake of the campy horror movie, Eight Legged Freaks. But this is scarier, because it’s really happening” (Los Angeles Times) …and many more.

So, what’s going on out there? Continue reading Giant, venomous, invading alien spiders… again.

You bad plant!!

The Ranger obtained a little Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) plant from a local garden centre to see if it would catch the fruitflies that tend to buzz around in his living room. Lo and behold, after some watering with carefully husbanded rainwater, at last the plant secures its first victim. Hoorah, one fly fewer! But wait – what’s this? When the satiated plant finally opened its little leaf, what was revealed?

Drassodes sp in Venus flytrap

Looks like a male Drassodes went looking for love and found more than he was bargaining for. Bad plant!

Spiderlings scatter when scared

In The Ranger’s back garden today, the season’s crop of spiderlings have hatched and are soaking up the sun:


These tiny creatures, probably Araneus diadematus, with a body size of no more than 1mm, cluster together on the threads they weave for a few days after hatching before they go their own separate ways.


Look more closely – like most baby animals they have a certain cuteness!

Spiderling photographed by Cat James using USB microscope.

Spiderling photographed by Cat using USB microscope. No spiders were harmed in the taking of this photograph.

But one characteristic of this little ball of siblings is that the group will very quickly scatter if any disturbance occurs. This is a protective mechanism to try to confuse a pecking bird or similar predator. To demonstrate this, The Ranger recruited his companion the Cat to wield a handy stick: