Spider of the Month - September

Antistea elegans
This month, we just have a wee note on a wee spider: Antistea elegans.
Just a little bigger than last month's species, both males and females are only 2.5 - 3mm in size, and similar in appearance.

I like this species - and not just because it is so easy to recognise. One of the two British genera in the family Hahniidae ( the other genus is Hahnia), these are so obvious from the arrangement of  their spinners in a transverse row. They have a distinctive appearance - as you can see in the picture - and obvious tracheal spiracles, as well as very characteristic genitalia in both males and females. So - when working through masses of spiders taken in pitfall traps, it is a relief to come across a whole bunch of easily-recognised ones.

The hahniids were once included in the family Agelenidae and their webs are fairly similar to those of some agelenids.To quote from Roberts (1985):  "These small spiders spin a web across depressions in the ground, or between stones and moss. The web is a sheet and not funnel-like; the spiders run on its upper surface."

These are fairly comon spiders in this part of the world, being widely distributed over the British Isles. They are usually found in wet habitats, and thus I have caught plenty of them in pitfall traps used for sampling the ground layer invertebrates of peat bogs (a good habitat to sample with pitfall traps as the vegetation is so short). Their web-building habit probably heps as well, as they often adopt the depression provided by the pitfalls as good places acros which to build their webs. It is tempting to speculate also that the web may have some effect in regulating the environmental conditions within the depression (e.g. water retention) - as has been reported in some other species.

The picture of A. elegans is again from the book by Dr. Mike Roberts : The Spiders of Great Britain and Ireland, published by Harley Books in 1985.

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