"Closer inspection of the spiders revealed some of them to be invested with little red lumps."
As I mentioned in part one of the rewilding diaries, my garden has very little space which isn’t block paved, with the few areas that aren’t being covered in a mixture of large pebbles and stony gravel. You’ll recall me saying how I’m not a huge fan of neat gardening styles; however, the presence of the stones doesn’t exactly allow for natural seed dispersal and growth (especially given that under the stones is a sheet of weed membrane).
I began tackling the stony hindrance by removing the small pieces of gravel from the small patio border beds with a plan to sow them with wildflower seeds. I didn’t want to throw the gravel away, so every piece that was collected was put into a large dustbin (in case I wanted them for anything at a later date or for my parents to help themselves to). With the completion of clearing the first bedding area I moved onto the next, however I was quickly distracted by the numerous spider sights amongst the stones, particularly amongst the larger pebbles.
I saw it as an opportunity to get some content and began snapping away at the spiders that emerged at the disturbance of the pebbles. It was then that I identified several spotted wolf spiders living amongst the rocks, identifiable by the presence of their young being carried on their back. Wolf spiders truly are a fantastic example of maternal behaviour in spiders. They carry their egg sacks around with them, fixed to their spinnerets before their young are born. What’s more, if they are separated from their sack, they will frantically go in search of it. When the spiderlings hatch they use their mothers back legs to climb onto their mothers back, where they will be carried around by her until they are big enough to fend for themselves. Now tell me that isn’t cute.
In addition to this, the closer inspection of the spiders revealed some of them to be invested with little red lumps. Perplexed I did a little digging and was able to identify the red lumps as the parasitic Trombidium holosericeum larvae. When they hatch, they latch onto passing spiders and insects and gauge themselves on their blood. Thankfully these hitchhikers cause no harm, and once they’ve had their fill, fall off back into the ground where they re-emerge as adults. You really do learn something new every day!
After my little spider study session, I decided there was no way that I was going to be removing the larger pebbles from the garden. The whole point of investing time into the garden is to rewild it for all creatures great and small, and that doesn’t discriminate against spiders. The pebbles are clearly functioning as a great little habitat for the spiders to thrive and I don’t intend to take a backwards step by removing that.
So the ‘spider stones’ are staying put (which has saved me a whole lot of work). The smaller bedding areas which were filled with gravel have remained cleared and now have chives growing in them (kindly donated from a friend) and night scented stock which is loved by moths (we’ll talk more about that in my next post which is going to cover wildflowers). Although the pebbles are here to stay, I still wanted to increase the flora growing in the area, so I have been adding plants here and there in pockets amongst the stones without causing too much disturbance to the spiders.
And that concludes my second entry for the garden rewilding diaries. A spider sanctuary discovered, a whole lot of effort saved and some new additions in the form of chives and night scented stock (which has already begun bringing moths to the garden). All for a grand total of £2.29 – Night scented stock seeds.