Caught in a trap? The surprising journey of the New Zealand trapdoor spider

Back in 2015, my supervisor (Adrian Paterson)wrote about how I used tethered beetles to collect trapdoor spiders (genus Cantuaria) without harming the beetles, spiders, or their habitat. I needed to collect those spiders for my PhD research into their biogeography (where they live), ecology (how they live), and conservation (if…

Nothing to see here: the case of the disappearing katipo

 Mislaid. We’ve all done it. We all have things that we know that we had once but can no longer find. From a stray sock to our hopes and dreams, life is full of lost things. Sometimes things are just gone. The broken vase, the wrecked lamp, the old decrepit chair…

Summer success for ballooners: spiders take the high road

New Zealand is renowned for the changes that have been wrought on it by humans.  First by Maori, then by Europeans.  One of the long term changes created by Maori have been the tussock grasslands of Canterbury, Southland and Otago.  The local fauna have adapted and created their own ecosystem.  Over the…

Ecoblitzing Cambridge

Over the last few days we ran a successful ecoblitz at St Peters School in Cambridge. How does an ecoblitz differ from the more common bioblitz, I hear you ask? In a bioblitz we arrive at a location and try to record all of the biodiversity at that site, typically…

There is only one species of katipo in New Zealand

About the katipo The katipo spider (Latrodectus katipo) is a small spider, their abdomens are about the size of one of your fingernails. They are black and often have a pretty red stripe down their back,   hence their Australian cousins are called “Red Backs”. In the North Island there is…

Trapping trapdoor spiders

Midnight on Codfish Island. The full moon is riding to its zenith. There’s a high wind blowing and the stars are shining bright. I am in amongst the large rear-dunes, leaning against an almost vertical sandy wall. My face is pressed up against a small opening, a little round tunnel…

Handling live redback spiders: keep cool?

Mortal peril, danger, excitement, injuries, scientist. Not all of these words usually go together. People would rarely equate being a zoologist as a high risk professions. These same people are quite happy to accept the Steve Irwins and Bear Grylls of this world and appreciate the danger that they are…

The answer is blowing in the wind

It is springtime here in Canterbury. That means lambs are frolicking in the fields, cricketers are filling our domains, we go from 12C, three days ago, to 26C days, yesterday. Mostly, the wind has returned (although it never really goes away). Lincoln is a windy place. Our supermarket has windmills…

Counting Katipo and the known unknowns

Former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld made the following observation: “because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But…