The fishing spider in my pool

morning spiderweb May 2012

I love spiders. They come in such a huge array of shapes and sizes, and have so many amazing and unique talents, from swinging a lasso to catch prey to using passing breezes to parachute away on. Anyone who’s sat and watched an ordinary garden spider spin a web – and it takes a surprisingly short time – can’t help but be astonished at the skill of these wonders of nature.

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So I was very thrilled to find, in my swimming pool, a fishing spider. This clever not-so-little fellow has stationed himself above the weir, so that when the pump turns on and water starts flowing into the leaf trap, it brings with it lots of delicious little insects and other edible goodies – all the spider has to do is sit and wait for his food to come to him.

In a situation where there isn’t a water flow, such as in a pond, fishing spiders spread their legs out around themselves and sit on the water, waiting for prey. They’re very quick to dive if necessary to catch it.

In the case of ‘my’ spider, I’ve found bits of frog floating about in the area, so in addition to the insects he’s gobbling up, this spider is definitely also eating the little hoppers that are unlucky enough to fall into the pool.

Scientific names: say bye-bye to our acacias

This spider is one of the 38 I included in my little field guide to spiders and scorpions.

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The book was first published in 1998, at which stage the fishing spider was in the genus Thalassius. It has since, apparently, been moved to Nilus. Here are some discussions for those interested in this kind of detail:

http://www.ispot.org.za/node/181486

http://www.ispot.org.za/node/182322

The issue of scientific names is a fraught one, as I learned recently while compiling the manuscript for Gardening for Birds (which will be published next April). For instance, there’s been a bit of a row brewing in the botanical world for quite some time, over the use of the scientific name Acacia, which the Australians want to claim entirely for their own. I do know that our winterthorn or ana tree, Acacia albida, has been renamed Faidherbia albida, but I don’t know if or how any of our other acacias have been renamed. Here’s an article about it: http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/taxonomy/acacia-conserved-2004.html

All our Rhus species (the various taaibosses and karees, among others) have been renamed Searsia.

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