Wasp Spider

Argiope bruennichi

The Wasp Spider Argiope bruennichi was first recorded in Britain in 1922 at Rye and although it has been known on the south coast for some time, it has been spreading north (as far as the East Midlands, Bee, Oxford & Smith 2017) and is now becoming a familiar spider (in suitable habitats) to far more people.

Citations with respect to the Wasp Spider's expansion north

 

Krehenwinke & Tautz (2013) suggest that the latter range expansion into far Northern latitudes may be a consequence of the admixture (see below for definition) that provided the genetic material for adaptations to new environmental regimes, hence, global warming could have facilitated the initial admixture of populations and this resulted in genetic lineages with new habitat preferences.  

 

Henrik Krehenwinkel (2013) dissertation results indicate that the spider´s range expansion is associated with admixture of formerly isolated genetic lineages from around 1930 onwards. The ecological experiments indicate that invasive spider populations have simultaneously adapted to colder temperatures by shifting their thermal preference and tolerance.  

Basic description

 

The female (11-15 mm) is a very striking species with the dorsal view exhibiting the ‘wasp-like’ yellow, white and black abdomen, although the ventral side is far less obvious. The much smaller male (4-4.5 mm) is pale brown and like many species of Arachnids tends to get consumed whilst mating.  Probably the reason (thus far) I have not seen a male!

The large Orb web, built  just above groud level also has a zigzag stabilimentum, although I have seen this absent in some webs.

Habitat

 

Females tend to appear in August, although the males are out earlier.  Unmanaged rough grassland is where to find these spiders and any form of regular cutting will destroy the webs and the over-wintering egg cocoons.  I have seen this happen and where there was once Wasp Spiders they are no longer present.  There also appears to be a correlation between where the spiders are in terms of sunlight; areas, such as Bradwall Park where succession has reduced the light and resulted in no Wasp Spiders present there now.

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Definition of 'Admixture'

 

Genetic admixture is the presence of DNA in an individual from a distantly-related population or species, as a result of interbreeding between populations or species who have been reproductively isolated and genetically differentiated. Admixture results in the introduction of new genetic lineages into a population. https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Genetic_admixture

Prey

The preferred prey appears to be Grasshoppers, but other insects will be taken, as illustrated in the photographs.  Like many other Arachnid species, the speed at which the prey is wrapped-up is rather impressive!

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The underside of the spider is far less

conspicuous and can be easily overlooked

Orb web showing the

zig-zag stabilimentum

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Prey items

Possible Lesser Marsh Grasshopper            Fly sp.                                                         Migrant Hawker                                         Grasshopper sp.

Egg sacs

 

The egg sacs are relatively large and indeed quite conspicuous, looking like urns or even milk churns.  These egg sacs overwinter to produce next year'scrop of spiders.  However, where grass is regularly mowed these do no survive.

Female Short-winged Conehead

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Female guarding the egg sacs

References

 

Bee, L., Oxford, G. & Smith, H 2017. British Spiders A field guide. Princeton University Press, Old Bassing.

 

Krehenwinkel H (2013) A phylogeographic, ecological and genomic analysis of the recent range expansion of the wasp spider Argiope bruennichi https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cb53/31b98ea4ff89ce0df22aca618d8419ac2641.pdf

 

Krehenwinkel H, Tautz D (2013) Northern range expansion of European populations of the wasp spider Argiope bruennichi is associated with global warming–correlated genetic admixture and population-specific temperature adaptations. Molecular Ecology. 22, 2232–2248.