Meet Florida’s Beautiful Nursery Web Spider

Meet Florida’s Beautiful Nursery Web Spider1blog-Florida-Pest-control

There are spiders and then there are really cool spiders.  Meet Pisaurina mira, one of Florida’s prettiest and coolest Nursery Web Spiders.  They get their name because of the webbing nest the female builds for her spiderlings.

Although Florida is home to several species of Nursery Web Spider, P. mira is probably the most common.  You may have seen one in your yard, or maybe on or in your home.  They are found throughout Florida.

One of their favorite places to hang out is in the forest, where they can be seen hanging upside down on tree trunks waiting for dinner to pass by.  They can also be found in fields on tall grass and shrubs.

Just like many spiders, they have eight eyes…the better to see you with!  Nursery Web Spiders can grow to nearly ¾ of an inch, which is about 15mm.  Also like many spiders, they feed on insects and other small critters.  What’s even more interesting, Nursery Web Spiders do not construct webs to capture their prey.  They do this by ambushing the insect or chasing it down!

Nursery Web Spider on LeafMating can be quite tricky for some species of male Nursery Web Spiders.  If he’s off his game, he could become her next meal.  He must offer her a “nuptial gift” before mating begins. The male captures an insect, gift-wraps it in silk, and slowly brings it to her.  Now, some males are slick and offer a fake gift, but she, being very smart, refuses it and chases him off or may even eat him!  The larger the gift the more time he will spend with her.  When all is said and done, the male often takes the nuptial gift back from her and crawls away.  Geez…Go figure!  Guys, think about this on Valentine’s Day.

Florida Deep Digger Scarab Beetle

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Some of you may have noticed small mounds of sand ranging 5” to 7” wide and 2” to 3” high on some lawns, fields, and pastures.  No, they’re not baby Pocket Gophers!  They’re Florida Deep Digger Scarab Beetles!  There’s no need to worry.  This particular species does not feed on the roots of grass, unlike the dreaded white grubs which grow up to be May/June Beetles, Masked Chafers, or Green June Beetles.

Deep Diggers are unique insects because they are Winter breeders.  From November through March, you can see their mounds in sparse sandy lawns throughout our service area, especially in sandhill-type habitats.  Strangely enough, they do not occur in the Panhandle, though. Scarab Beetle on Mound

During mating season, the female digs a burrow that goes straight down to depths between four and ten feet.  I bet you’re thinking, that’s incredible!  At the end of the burrow, she constructs a cell at a 90° angle.  She then packs the cell with organic debris such as leaf litter, acorns, and pine straw.  She will lay one egg in the cell.  The larva will feed off the debris until it’s all consumed and then enter into the pupal stage.  It takes nearly one year to complete its life cycle!  Now that’s profound, hence its scientific name, Peltotrupes Peltotrupes profundusprofundus.

In Florida, we have two species of Deep Diggers.  We have the Florida Deep Digger and the Ocala Deep Digger.  The Ocala Deep Digger has a limited range in isolated parts of Sand Pine habitats in the Ocala National Forest.

If you want to try your luck at finding one of these shining blue or blue/green jewels, here’s what to do.  Find a mound and clear the debris from around the perimeter.  The actual hole is not in the center of the mound but on the edge of the mound.  The beetle crawls out of the hole in the ground and enters another hole at the base of the mound.  It actually pushes the dirt to the center of the mound and up the middle.  Ocala Deep Digger Scarab Beetle Peltotrupes youngiThat’s why some mounds are several inches high.  Move your hand slowly through the mound and if you’re lucky you may find one in the mound.  If you find one, admire it for its beauty and then release it back where you found it.  Now, go try to find one!     

The Insects of Christmas

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Most people enjoy the aroma of a fresh-cut evergreen tree in their home to decorate for Christmas.  We find the perfect spot, bring out the ornaments and the fun begins; never paying any mind to the critters that may crawl out of that well-lighted, beautiful tree in the corner.

Two of the most common creepy crawlers found are aphids and spiders.  During the late summer and fall, the adults lay their eggs on the stems and foliage of these wonderful trees.  In nature, these eggs lay dormant during the winter to hatch in the warmth of spring.  It shouldn’t be any surprise that when the tree is brought into the warmth of the house, these eggs may hatch.

This hatching normally goes undetected because the aphids and spiders are so small unless of course, they are in great numbers!  Then you see them all over the tree!  But not to worry, they cannot live for long out of their natural habitat.

On a lighter note, did you know that insects are often used for Christmas decorations?  It’s true.  The ladybug, butterfly, and honey bee have been used since the Middle Ages.  And more recently, the dragonfly has been showing up on some trees.

Almost everyone knows that ladybugs eat aphids.  During the Middle Ages, farmers would pray for help when aphids would start destroying their crops.  The ladybugs would show up and eat the aphids, so you could say they were “God sent”.  These insects became known as the bug sent by the Virgin Mary or “Our Lady’s Bug”.  Today, we simply call them ladybugs.

The butterfly is a Christian symbol for redemption.  The caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis to change into a beautiful butterfly.  It symbolizes the resurrection of Christ and, to some, the transformation of the human soul.

Now, how about the honey bee?  They’ve been around humans for a very long time and are thought to be a symbol of prosperity.  British farmers of long ago would say bees hummed when the Christ child was born on the first Christmas in Bethlehem.

Ladybug Feeding on Aphids

Now you know why these insects are used for decorating the Christmas tree.  It’s all related to why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.  Put a couple of ladybug ornaments on your tree.  Maybe they’ll eat the aphids and spiders!