Photographing today’s spider proved to be quite a challenge. The herb hammock spider (Neriene clathrata) is a small and fast spider that barely stays in one spot. I noticed this spider a couple of weeks ago, but when I looked through the pictures I took, I was disappointed that they did not turn out as well as I hoped. Fortunately, I got another chance when I spotted it again yesterday. Of course, the pictures needed to be as good as possible, so I chased after the spider until it gave up and stopped moving (no, he didn’t die, just tired I guess 😉 ). Click on the pictures for a larger image.
Herb hammock spiders are easily overlooked. They are small, brown spiders without real eye-catching features. They belong to the sheet weaver or money spider family (Linyphiidae). Herb hammock spiders build tiny sheet-like webs, almost like a hammock. Because they are so small, they sometimes engage in the extreme spider sport called ballooning. Competing spiders produce a long thread and the wind carries them high up in the sky. When its time to get on the ground again, they might happen to land on humans. Arachnophobes might shudder in fear right now, but according to a superstition, this is not a bad thing, because it means that the spider will bring you good fortune (hence the common name ‘money spider’).
Herb hammock spiders are usually found year-round in habitats such as low undergrowth, grasslands, marshes and gardens. Usually they hide under their sheet web and wait for a prey to land on the web. When that happens, they quickly grab the prey and pull it towards them to be eaten. The spider in the picture is male. You can tell by looking at its palps which resemble boxing gloves. Females don’t have these ‘boxing gloves’. These structures are actually its reproductive organ, which they insert in a females epigyny (a hole in the middle of the abdomen) when its mating season.