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Heather spider: for whom the bell tolls

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Heather spider: for whom the bell tolls

The heather spider (Thomisus onustus) is a remarkable creature! In fact, it is quite remarkable that I have this photograph I took of one. In general I do not find uncommon things when I am out and about wandering the nature reserves of Dorset, I seem to leave others to do that! I just happened to spot this spider, not on bell heather, its usual flower but climbing on to a similar coloured thistle because the bell heather was dying off and becoming brown  Here is is bit more I have discovered about this spider.

It is a totally different shape to virtually all other spiders having a triangular body rather than a round one and its eyes are carried on little stalks. Its body can be coloured white, yellow or various shades of pink and an individual can change its colour over a period of time to match its surroundings. Using this chameleon-like approach it can make itself invisible to potential prey by merging with its background. It does not build a web to catch prey, it takes unsuspecting insects by surprise with its front legs. 

This spider is found only in the south of England where it is at the northern edge of its range occurring across much of mainland Europe too. It is probably more common than realised as it is seldom seen being generally lost in the masses of heather on our heaths.


 

If you would like to see the complete series that this post is part of click here ---->
This nature note was written by ----> Peter Orchard
This nature nore was written ----> 2 years 8 months ago

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