Animal Photograph - Spiders Of Britain And Northern Europe by Natural History Museum, London/science Photo Library


My garden has got a little wild and my paeonies all needed to be looked at. Though the main white one – the big one, had finished flowering some time ago. The smaller herbaceous varieties I have are still blooming, though many of the heads are becoming manky, to use a technical term. I have a general rule that ‘mankiness’ should be removed before it goes sludgy and makes things worse. So, I de-head anything that has gone over. It’s an easy rule – and satisfying too. Now the little white paeony is going over – the petals are worn and the heads are looking very tatty.

I have been taking them off regularly and went to take one of the last when I saw a movement and met Blanche – my friendly neighbourhood WHITE spider sitting amongst the petals. So, I left her alone – she obviously lived in the bud – and I do believe in trying to garden without disturbing anyone too much.

For the last few days I have been studying her. At times she is very white, others an off white and sometimes she has a greenish tinge. No web to speak of, so I assumed (I find rightly) that she is the wait- and-grab type of arachnid and was waiting for some unsuspecting prey to visit. I have kept an eye on her

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ever since, taking photos of her (when she wasn’t hiding behind the sepals of the flower head, or under one of the petals) and thought that the colour change was something to do with sunshine and how it was hitting her body…

I have a copy of The Collins Field Guides: Spiders, (1995 edn.) which has photographs as well as line drawings and low and behold, amongst the photos of lots of brown and very prettily marked arachnids I came across a white example – looking very similar to Blanche. The notation states:

Genus Misumena: The single species in the region sits in flowers, usually white or yellow and ambushes visiting insects in the same manner as Thomisus. It is similarly able to slowly change colour and the female may be white, yellow or greenish, with or without red spots or stripes.

As you will see from the photos Blanche has no spots or stripes, but this is definitely her Genus – without a doubt. It seems her husband is the more usual brown, with a pattern. I was a little concerned about her – she is small – body no bigger than my little finger nail…and she didn’t seem interested in the odd fly that visited the paeony…but then this evening, I made a last visit to her shrub and found her half hidden under a petal, curved over her. She had her legs wrapped very firmly around a bee, I’m afraid and seemed to be determined to hold on to it. Not that I tried to remove it, you understand it’s just that there’s an air of determination about her. As to the bee – she wasn’t moving. I suspect that Blanche has immobilised

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her, or failing that I was looking at a body. I shall be interested tomorrow to see what remains. I am glad though that Blanche has caught a meal – though it is rather a large one – and though I’d prefer not to practice speciesism – I would have liked her quarry not to have been a honey bee…

I have had this book for some time – but haven’t really used it for identifying any arachnids until this week – and it is full of useful information too – if you have even the most basic interest in the smaller fauna then these guide books produced by Collins are extremely useful.