Spider Ecology and Behaviour

A special issue of Insects (ISSN 2075-4450). This special issue belongs to the section "Other Arthropods and General Topics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2022) | Viewed by 29056

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Special Issue Editors


E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PJ, UK
Interests: spider ecology and behaviour; construction behaviour; subterranean biology; comparative biomechanics; biomimetics

E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Central American Master Program in Entomology, University of Panama, Panama City 3366, Panama
Interests: spiders; ants; insect ecology; insect behaviour; biodiversity; myrmecology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Spiders, while to some extent remaining the overlooked cousins of the far more diverse insects, have been the subject of increasing research efforts in recent years. As they are only large arthropod group that uses silk throughout their life, much effort has been focused on the interactions between ecology, silk, and foraging behavior, but it is also becoming clear that spiders can more generally act as model organisms for studies on sexual selection, invertebrate cognition, and animal communication and signaling, as well as their potential role in biological control. Similarly, new promising research directions are being developed exploring plant–spider and spider–microbe interactions.

This Special Issue will broadly address studies on Spider Ecology and Behavior across all relevant disciplines, including applied areas such as their conservation and role as bioindicators. In this context, submissions in the form of reviews/mini reviews, opinions, and original basic or applied research are welcome.

Dr. Thomas Hesselberg
Dr. Dumas Gálvez
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • behavioral flexibility
  • biological control
  • community structure
  • foraging behavior
  • mating behavior
  • plant–spider interactions
  • spider conservation
  • spider cognition
  • web-building behavior

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 231 KiB  
Editorial
Spider Ecology and Behaviour—Spiders as Model Organisms
by Thomas Hesselberg and Dumas Gálvez
Insects 2023, 14(4), 330; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects14040330 - 28 Mar 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2639
Abstract
Spiders are versatile and ubiquitous generalist predators that can be found in all terrestrial ecosystems except for Antarctica [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)

Research

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16 pages, 1596 KiB  
Article
Group-Living Spider Cyrtophora citricola as a Potential Novel Biological Control Agent of the Tomato Pest Tuta absoluta
by Thomas A. Roberts-McEwen, Ella K. Deutsch, Monica A. Mowery and Lena Grinsted
Insects 2023, 14(1), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects14010034 - 30 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4334
Abstract
Group-living spiders may be uniquely suited for controlling flying insect pests, as their high tolerance for conspecifics and low levels of cannibalism result in large, predator dense capture webs. In laboratory settings, we tested the ability of the facultatively communal spider, Cyrtophora citricola [...] Read more.
Group-living spiders may be uniquely suited for controlling flying insect pests, as their high tolerance for conspecifics and low levels of cannibalism result in large, predator dense capture webs. In laboratory settings, we tested the ability of the facultatively communal spider, Cyrtophora citricola, to control the tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta; a major pest of tomato crops worldwide. We tested whether prey capture success was affected by spider body size, and whether prey capture differed among T. absoluta, flightless fruit flies (Drosophila hydei), and larger black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens). We found that larger spiders generally caught more prey, and that prey capture success was similar for T. absoluta and easily caught fruit flies, while black soldier flies were rarely caught. We further investigated the seasonal variations in web sizes in southern Spain, and found that pest control would be most effective in the tomato planting and growing season. Finally, we show that C. citricola in Spain have >50% infection rates of an egg predatory wasp, Philolema palanichamyi, which may need controlling to maintain pest control efficacy. These results suggest that using C. citricola as a biological control agent in an integrated pest management system could potentially facilitate a reduction of pesticide reliance in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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16 pages, 2483 KiB  
Article
Behavior and Bioadhesives: How Bolas Spiders, Mastophora hutchinsoni, Catch Moths
by Candido Diaz, Jr. and John H. Long, Jr.
Insects 2022, 13(12), 1166; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13121166 - 16 Dec 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2357
Abstract
Spiders use various combinations of silks, adhesives, and behaviors to ensnare and trap prey. A common but difficult to catch prey in most spider habitats are moths. They easily escape typical orb-webs because their bodies are covered in sacrificial scales that flake off [...] Read more.
Spiders use various combinations of silks, adhesives, and behaviors to ensnare and trap prey. A common but difficult to catch prey in most spider habitats are moths. They easily escape typical orb-webs because their bodies are covered in sacrificial scales that flake off when in contact with the web’s adhesives. This defense is defeated by spiders of the sub-family of Cyrtarachninae, moth-catching specialists who combine changes in orb-web structure, predatory behavior, and chemistry of the aggregate glue placed in those webs. The most extreme changes in web structure are shown by bolas spiders, who create a solitary capture strand containing only one or two glue droplets at the end of a single thread. They prey on male moths by releasing pheromones to draw them within range of their bolas, which they flick to ensnare the moth. We used a high-speed video camera to capture the behavior of the bolas spider Mastophora hutchinsoni. We calculated the kinematics of spiders and moths in the wild to model the physical and mechanical properties of the bolas during prey capture, the behavior of the moth, and how these factors lead to successful prey capture. We created a numerical model to explain the mechanical behavior of the bolas silk during prey capture. Our kinematic analysis shows that the material properties of the aggregate glue bolas of M. hutchinsoni are distinct from that of the other previously analyzed moth-specialist, Cyrtarachne akirai. The spring-like behavior of the M. hutchinsoni bolas suggests it spins a thicker liquid. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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13 pages, 3952 KiB  
Article
Mechanics of the Prey Capture Technique of the South African Grassland Bolas Spider, Cladomelea akermani
by Candido Diaz, Jr. and John Roff
Insects 2022, 13(12), 1118; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13121118 - 5 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1751
Abstract
Spiders use various combinations of silks, adhesives, and behaviors to ensnare prey. One common but difficult-to-catch prey is moths. They easily escape typical orb-webs because their bodies are covered in tiny sacrificial scales that flake off when in contact with the web’s adhesives. [...] Read more.
Spiders use various combinations of silks, adhesives, and behaviors to ensnare prey. One common but difficult-to-catch prey is moths. They easily escape typical orb-webs because their bodies are covered in tiny sacrificial scales that flake off when in contact with the web’s adhesives. This defense is defeated by spiders of the sub-family of Cyrtarachninae—moth-catching specialists who combine changes in orb-web structure, predatory behavior, and chemistry of the aggregate glue placed in those webs. The most extreme changes in web structure are shown by the bolas spiders which create only one or two glue droplets at the end of a single thread. They prey on male moths by releasing pheromones to draw them close. Here, we confirm the hypothesis that the spinning behavior of the spider is directly used to spin its glue droplets using a high-speed video camera to observe the captured behavior of the bolas spider Cladomelea akermani as it actively spins its body and bolas. We use the kinematics of the spider and bolas to begin to quantify and model the physical and mechanical properties of the bolas during prey capture. We then examine why this species chooses to spin its body, an energetically costly behavior, during prey capture. We test the hypothesis that spinning helps to spread pheromones by creating a computational fluid dynamics model of airflow within an open field and comparing it to that of airflow within a tree, a common environment for bolas spiders that do not spin. Spinning in an open environment creates turbulent air, spreading pheromones further and creating a pocket of pheromones. Conversely, spinning within a tree does little to affect the natural airflow. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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15 pages, 2092 KiB  
Article
Spider Assemblages of Tree Trunks and Tree Branches in Three Developmental Phases of Primeval Oak–Lime–Hornbeam Forest in the Białowieża National Park
by Marzena Stańska and Tomasz Stański
Insects 2022, 13(12), 1115; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13121115 - 3 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1141
Abstract
The study was conducted in the Białowieża Forest, which is the only place in Europe where the full development cycle of forests takes place on a large scale. The objective of this study was to compare spider assemblages inhabiting tree trunks and tree [...] Read more.
The study was conducted in the Białowieża Forest, which is the only place in Europe where the full development cycle of forests takes place on a large scale. The objective of this study was to compare spider assemblages inhabiting tree trunks and tree branches in the optimal, terminal and regeneration phases of a primeval oak–lime–hornbeam stand, in terms of their abundance, species diversity and species richness. Spiders of tree branches were sampled using a sweep net into which branches were shaken, while spiders inhabiting tree trunks were collected using traps made of corrugated cardboard placed around the trunks. The three analysed phases did not differ in terms of total species richness. We found that the species diversity of both foliage-dwelling and trunk-dwelling spider assemblages was higher in the terminal phase compared to other phases, which may indicate that the former phase offered the most diverse niches for spiders as a result of the significant disturbance in the stand structure. In addition, we found fewer spider individuals and species in individual samples collected on tree branches from a plot in the regeneration phase compared to the other phases, which may be a consequence of the structure of the stand in this phase (low canopy cover, lush herbaceous vegetation). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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13 pages, 1167 KiB  
Article
The Use of Tuning Forks for Studying Behavioural Responses in Orb Web Spiders
by Mollie S. Davies and Thomas Hesselberg
Insects 2022, 13(4), 370; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13040370 - 9 Apr 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2369
Abstract
Spiders and their webs are often used as model organisms to study a wide range of behaviours. However, these behavioural studies are often carried out in the laboratory, and the few field studies usually result in large amounts of video footage and subsequent [...] Read more.
Spiders and their webs are often used as model organisms to study a wide range of behaviours. However, these behavioural studies are often carried out in the laboratory, and the few field studies usually result in large amounts of video footage and subsequent labour-intensive data analysis. Thus, we aimed to devise a cost- and time-effective method for studying the behaviour of spiders in the field, using the now almost forgotten method of stimulating webs with tuning forks. Our study looked at the viability of using 256 Hz and 440 Hz tuning forks to stimulate, anti-predatory and predatory responses in the orb web spider Metellina segmentata, respectively. To assess the consistency of the behaviours produced, we compared these to direct mechanical stimulation with a metal wire. The results suggest that the tuning forks produce relatively consistent behaviours within and between two years in contrast to the metal wire. We furthermore found no significant effects of spider length or web area on spider reaction times. However, we found significant differences in reaction times between escape and prey capture behaviours, and between tuning forks and the wire. Thus, we demonstrated the potential of tuning forks to rapidly generate quantitative data in a field setting. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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13 pages, 2894 KiB  
Article
Validation of a Novel Stereo Vibrometry Technique for Spiderweb Signal Analysis
by Nathan Justus, Rodrigo Krugner and Ross L. Hatton
Insects 2022, 13(4), 310; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13040310 - 22 Mar 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2279
Abstract
From courtship rituals, to prey identification, to displays of rivalry, a spider’s web vibrates with a symphony of information. Examining the modality of information being transmitted and how spiders interact with this information could lead to new understanding how spiders perceive the world [...] Read more.
From courtship rituals, to prey identification, to displays of rivalry, a spider’s web vibrates with a symphony of information. Examining the modality of information being transmitted and how spiders interact with this information could lead to new understanding how spiders perceive the world around them through their webs, and new biological and engineering techniques that leverage this understanding. Spiders interact with their webs through a variety of body motions, including abdominal tremors, bounces, and limb jerks along threads of the web. These signals often create a large enough visual signature that the web vibrations can be analyzed using video vibrometry on high-speed video of the communication exchange. Using video vibrometry to examine these signals has numerous benefits over the conventional method of laser vibrometry, such as the ability to analyze three-dimensional vibrations and the ability to take measurements from anywhere in the web, including directly from the body of the spider itself. In this study, we developed a method of three-dimensional vibration analysis that combines video vibrometry with stereo vision, and verified this method against laser vibrometry on a black widow spiderweb that was experiencing rivalry signals from two female spiders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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15 pages, 2480 KiB  
Article
Effects of Wolf Spiders’ Captive Environment on Their Locomotor and Exploratory Behaviours
by Marie Trabalon
Insects 2022, 13(2), 135; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13020135 - 27 Jan 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2893
Abstract
Here I detail the effects of the abiotic/captive environment of an adult wandering spider, Pardosa saltans (Lycosidae) on its behaviour. These studies focused on spiders collected as adults in their natural environment and spiders developed in the laboratory under controlled conditions. [...] Read more.
Here I detail the effects of the abiotic/captive environment of an adult wandering spider, Pardosa saltans (Lycosidae) on its behaviour. These studies focused on spiders collected as adults in their natural environment and spiders developed in the laboratory under controlled conditions. Wild-caught spiders were tested either immediately after capture or after being housed for 15 days post-collection. Laboratory reared spiders were kept in different environments: small or large space combined with the presence or absence of litter. Two tests evaluated by sex show the influence of these rearing conditions: an open-field test and a radial-arm maze test. The results show that wild caught spiders of both sexes tested immediately after capture weighed significantly less and were significantly more active than spiders housed in the laboratory for 15 days and spiders reared in the laboratory. Laboratory conditions induced a positive impact on body mass and negative impact on behaviour activities. The locomotor and exploratory activities of spiders of both sexes kept in container without substrate showed lower. My results suggest that the physical enrichment of the environment can reduce these negative effects for females, but not for males that seem to be more affected by being reared under controlled conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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Review

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20 pages, 1996 KiB  
Review
Host Plant Specificity in Web-Building Spiders
by Thomas Hesselberg, Kieran M. Boyd, John D. Styrsky and Dumas Gálvez
Insects 2023, 14(3), 229; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects14030229 - 24 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2338
Abstract
Spiders are ubiquitous generalist predators playing an important role in regulating insect populations in many ecosystems. Traditionally they have not been thought to have strong influences on, or interactions with plants. However, this is slowly changing as several species of cursorial spiders have [...] Read more.
Spiders are ubiquitous generalist predators playing an important role in regulating insect populations in many ecosystems. Traditionally they have not been thought to have strong influences on, or interactions with plants. However, this is slowly changing as several species of cursorial spiders have been reported engaging in either herbivory or inhabiting only one, or a handful of related plant species. In this review paper, we focus on web-building spiders on which very little information is available. We only find well-documented evidence from studies of host plant specificity in orb spiders in the genus Eustala, which are associated with specific species of swollen thorn acacias. We review what little is known of this group in the context of spider–plant interactions generally, and focus on how these interactions are established and maintained while providing suggestions on how spiders may locate and identify specific species of plants. Finally, we suggest ideas for future fruitful research aimed at understanding how web-building spiders find and utilise specific plant hosts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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Other

12 pages, 976 KiB  
Brief Report
Tangled in a Web: Management Type and Vegetation Shape the Occurrence of Web-Building Spiders in Protected Areas
by El Ellsworth, Yihan Li, Lenin D. Chari, Aidan Kron and Sydney Moyo
Insects 2022, 13(12), 1129; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13121129 - 7 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1330
Abstract
Land management of parks and vegetation complexity can affect arthropod diversity and subsequently alter trophic interactions between predators and their prey. In this study, we examined spiders in five parks with varying management histories and intensities to determine whether certain spider species were [...] Read more.
Land management of parks and vegetation complexity can affect arthropod diversity and subsequently alter trophic interactions between predators and their prey. In this study, we examined spiders in five parks with varying management histories and intensities to determine whether certain spider species were associated with particular plants. We also determined whether web architecture influenced spider occurrence. Our results showed that humpbacked orb-weavers (Eustala anastera) were associated with an invasive plant, Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense). This study revealed how invasive plants can potentially influence certain spider communities, as evidenced by this native spider species only occurring on invasive plants. Knowing more about spider populations—including species makeup and plants they populate—will give insights into how spider populations are dealing with various ecosystem changes. While we did not assess the effect of invasive plants on the behavior of spiders, it is possible that invasive species may not always be harmful to ecosystems; in the case of spiders, invasive plants may serve as a useful environment to live in. More studies are needed to ascertain whether invasive plants can have adverse effects on spider ecology in the long term. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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6 pages, 2107 KiB  
Brief Report
Novel Observation: Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) Perches on an Invasive Jorō Spider (Trichonephila clavata) Web and Steals Food
by Arty Schronce and Andrew K. Davis
Insects 2022, 13(11), 1049; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13111049 - 13 Nov 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2777
Abstract
An invasive spider (Trichonephila clavata [L. Koch 1878], or jorō spider) is rapidly expanding throughout the southeast of the United States, engendering many questions about how native fauna will be affected. Here, we describe an observation of a northern cardinal (Cardinalis [...] Read more.
An invasive spider (Trichonephila clavata [L. Koch 1878], or jorō spider) is rapidly expanding throughout the southeast of the United States, engendering many questions about how native fauna will be affected. Here, we describe an observation of a northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis, L.) consuming prey items from a jorō web, which serves as an example of a native species deriving a (small) benefit from this new invader. Moreover, the manner of the kleptoparasitism is also noteworthy; the cardinal perched directly on the web, which supported its weight (which is 42–48 g in this species). This appears to be the first documented case of a spider web supporting a perching bird. We also include measurements of other jorō webs, where web strength had been assessed using a force gauge, which revealed that typical webs can support masses up to 70 g before collapsing. Collectively, this information adds to the small but growing body of knowledge about the biology of this non-native spider. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spider Ecology and Behaviour)
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