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Linyphid of the Yard | by out in the sticks
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Linyphid of the Yard

So, I finally bit the bullet and forked out for the 5x magnification of Canon's MP-E65 lens. They're not kidding when they say how difficult it is to use! It ranges from 1x to 5x magnification, I haven't managed to get above about 2.5x yet because the depth of field all but disappears and all you can see through the viewfinder is a big white blur as your intended subject runs off in the opposite direction!


I thought I would have a go at photographing some money spiders, or Linyphiidae. I have been trying to photograph tiny spiders for a few months now and this is the next logical step. The linyphids represent 40% of all British spiders, and yet because they are so small and similar looking (most do not have any markings of any kind), they are rarely studied and even Michael Roberts' comprehensive guide to British spiders all but omits them completely. As I like my subjects alive and I'm not going to be examining their genitalia under a microscope, I doubt I will be able to identify them, but it would be nice to have a look and see how much variety there is in these tiny and often overlooked creatures. This one is a good start - apparently money spiders, especially male ones, often have very unusually shaped heads and palps, and some even have eyes on stalks. This one has a domed head a bit like a policeman's helmet, with the eyes on the top, although unfortunately as it is entirely black and shiny it is very difficult to make out much detail.


Linyphids are mostly sheet weavers, who make flat webs close to the ground. They are responsible for the webs you see covered in dew on an autumn morning, which gives the grass a silvery sheen. Many spiders use air currents to carry them long distances as babies, known as 'ballooning', but the linyphids are small enough to continue to do this into adulthood as most are only 1-3mm in size. The shiny appearance of their silk threads, or gossamer, gives the spiders their common name - in medieval times they were seen as a sign of good luck, if you saw a money spider it meant she had come to spin you some new clothes. So whatever you do try not to squash them!


This chap was around 3mm at the most and not in the mood to sit still. The problem with shooting male spiders is that they are very restless - they are always looking for females, whereas the females will generally sit on their backsides and wait for food (and romance) to come to them.


One of the comments below has suggested that this could be Entelecara acuminata, which looks a pretty good shout to me.

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Taken on May 13, 2012