Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Shining for Spiders

Carolyn Nixon

 

HEADLAMP.pngWhile wolf spiders are very common, they are most active at night, so people seldom notice them.  They can, however, be easily spotted at night with a headlamp or flashlight held at eye level.  Direct the light to the ground about 10 feet in front of you.  When light strikes a spider’s eyes, it is reflected back and the eyes glow like gleaming, turquoise jewels.  Once you spot it, you can approach closely with your light to get a good look at the spider.  Please do not capture or injure the wolf spider.  It is a valuable member of the natural community in your yard.

 

You can survey the wolf spiders in your yard and keep a record of their life histories.  At regular intervals, such as once a week, go out into your yard at night with a headlamp or flashlight.  Write down the date, time, and general weather  conditions in you notebook.  Walk the same route each time, at about the same speed.  This will work best if you use an area where the grass is kept mowed, or along a path.  Write down how many spiders you see and how large they are (large, medium, small, or tiny).  Look for mother spiders with their broods of spiderlings on their backs.  You will see the two large glowing eyes of the mother, and just behind them many tiny, turquoise, glitterlike sparkles.  These are the eyes of the babies! 

Spiders_at_night.jpg

Later, when the babies are on their own, you may see many tiny pairs of eyes spread out across the lawn.  There may even be too many to count.   Wolf spiders are not the only tiny creatures whose eyes reflect light.  The eyes of fisher spiders (Pisauridae) also glow, and the eyes of many moths and some beetles glow orange.  If the grass is wet from rain or dew, the droplets of water will glisten white.

 

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