Spiders in the Canary Islands - I spy the spider and the fly
No need to fear these natural born killers
Spiders are a source of fear for many people but not for me because I find them truly fascinating creatures and have been on the lookout for the different types found on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. I haven't had to go far to find them and spotted a Jumping Spider that had caught a fly on the wall outside.
Buy books about Spiders and scorpions on Amazon
Tenerife spider photos
What is it about spiders?
I posted a message about it and a photo on an online forum I am a regular at and ended up with people posting about how horrible it was and how Jumping Spiders could leap on to you. This seemed a fairly typical reaction from people but I am hoping that this article might just help the spider's public image a bit.
Spiders are incredible animals and are adapted to so many different habitats. It's not just their web-spinning talents I am referring to because some are experts at camouflage.
On a recent visit to Parque del Drago in Icod I spotted some very strange spiders, which had made their homes on the edge of one of the garden ponds there. Their webs were suspended from overhanging plants.
On the surface of the water were very many Pond-skaters, a bug that is common in Britain and that has fascinated me since childhood with its ability to live and move at a high speed across whatever pool, lake or river it is on.
This insect can fly and that is how it finds a new place to live and it feeds on small flies and other creatures, which have fallen in and are caught in the surface film. The spiders were thin and black in colour and had long spindly legs just like large Pond-skaters. Perhaps they look like this to lure the true pond-skaters to their doom I thought.
From the air they could be mistaken for one of these bugs and so perhaps this would help to entice any that were flying over to land. Bearing in mind that the insects get there in that way, how do the spiders manage to find such a pool I wondered, especially considering that fresh water isn't exactly common in Tenerife.
One spider called the Tent-web Spider that is very common here spins its large webs in bushes and among cacti and shrubs and the females often have a cocoon of eggs in the middle of theirs. It is very distinctive with white spikes like little thorns on its dark grey or blackish body.
This spider's web has many supporting lines to anchor it and it forms quite a large dome like construction into which unwary insects fly or fall. Often this species likes to live in small colonies with one living next to another and quite a large area covered in web.
The Crab Spider doesn't spin a web at all but rather it lurks in hiding amongst plants with its front legs outstretched on either side looking like a mini version of the crustacean it is named after. I was taking photos of the pretty little Ice plant one day when I spotted a wonderful creamy yellow Crab Spider hiding among the flower heads.
On another occasion I was with my friend Lisa-Marie at the end of a day's excursion with a travel company and we had been taken to the Tenerife Pearl showrooms for the last half hour. Neither of us had the interest in the pearls nor anywhere near the money needed to buy them so we went to have a look at what we could find in the plant life at the edge of the car park.
In no time at all I spotted an orb web and a magnificent long-legged spider with yellowish striped markings on its body and legs. I called Lisa over and told her that I thought it was a Wasp Spider.
This is a spider that is colonising Britain from continental Europe but whether they have been found on Tenerife I am not sure. When I got home I had a look in my book Naturaleza de las Islas Canarias and found a colour picture of a spider called Aculepeira annulipes that looked as if it could be the species we had found too.
I am afraid I couldn't find any shorter English name and I really can't be sure if it was one of these or a Wasp Spider. Whatever it was, it was a highlight of my day so maybe you should all call me Spiderman?
Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun, January 2006.