By Simon Knight
After the water voles, my second favourite residents of the reserve are the wasp spiders. When July rolls around, I make it my mission to find my first wasp spider and this happened on 3rd July. She was in Village Green and very small, the youngest I had ever seen. I used what3words to record the location as my plan was to come back over the coming days to see how she progressed. I was hoping the long grass in Village Green would remain as the rest of the reserve had already been cut, but sadly the next day Village Green was also cut. No more wasp spider.
There is zig zag structure in the web in the top two pictures; this is a stabilimentum, a structure included in the webs of some species of orb-web spiders for reasons that are, as yet, unclear.
I love wasp spiders, they are stunning creatures. I have watched them catch prey and wrap it in silk with precision and lightning speed. I have seen them mate, with the unfortunate male ending up as a meal. Not much romance in that relationship! I have watched them spin their large orb web and then finish it off with the zigzag stabilimentum. It’s fascinating stuff and I have seen this all in the reserve. If you have read this far, I understand that you may not be interested in spiders or even like them. But I hope that you understand that these spiders are important. They play their part in the food chain and help maintain a balance – nature maintains a balance. It’s only when we come along with our chemicals and destruction that this balance gets upset.
Fortunately, we do have some set-aside areas where the invertebrates can hang on. A female wasp spider will build a web that will remain for a long period, sometimes weeks at a time, so she is dependant on a steady flow of insect traffic (mainly grasshoppers and crickets) though the web. This will enable her to moult into adulthood, mate and ensure the survival of the species in the reserve.