Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Nursery web spider

with 22 comments

Click the image for a sharper version.

When I first wrote this text, here’s what I said: “Okay, call me the boy who cried wolf: it’s been almost a century since the gray wolf, or lobo, roamed the Texas Hill Country. But wolf spiders in central Texas are another matter. Here’s a golden oldie of a picture—with the gold coming from a sunflower—that shows a large wolf spider I photographed in Pflugerville in 1999.” But I was indeed the boy who cried wolf, and I misidentified the spider. Thanks to a detailed comment by Spider Joe (which you can read below), I now know that this is not a wolf spider but a nursery web spider, probably Dolomedes vittatus.

I hadn’t seen this picture in years, but I’m surprised at how good a job the early digital camera, with its paltry 2.3 megapixels, did in recording the dark wolf spider and the bright sunflower.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 16, 2011 at 5:59 AM

22 Responses

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  1. I found one of these large ladies in my compost heap this summer with her egg sack in tow. Down on the ground she was hard to catch with the camera because of her camouflage. You really have to look hard to see her. Not so with your photograph, there’s great contrast with that sunflower as backdrop. Love it!


    August 16, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    • Glad you like it. Good luck on photographing the next one you encounter: let’s hope it’ll be in a more favorable place than the one you describe.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2011 at 8:27 AM

  2. what a great picture! I’m super fascinated by spiders. Their patience especially.


    August 16, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    • Thanks, Rebecca. It’s easy to be fascinated by spiders, though many people are afraid of them. For nature photographers they’re usually good news, because I’ve noticed that they tend to hold their ground rather than flee, so I have time to keep taking pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2011 at 8:30 AM

  3. It is great for that few pixels. I saw every eye. Fascinating creatures.

    Andrée Reno Sanborn

    August 16, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    • Thanks, Andrée. The camera really did do an excellent job—not that I’d care to relinquish my current Canon EOS 7D, with its 18 megapixels.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2011 at 8:35 AM

  4. Nice picture – we have these spiders too. I love to photograph spider webs – they have such beauty and strength.


    August 16, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    • Thanks, Dawn. In light of your name, I’ll mention that I took this picture not at dawn but at dusk. It was getting to be dark enough that I had to supplement the available light with the camera’s flash.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2011 at 8:32 AM

  5. Outstanding capture. Really nice DOF control. Bravo!


    August 16, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    • Thanks, though I don’t think I can take much credit for the depth-of-field control on this one, as that early camera didn’t offer a lot of choice. The use of flash may have caused the camera’s algorithm to choose a small aperture, with consequent increase in the depth of field. In any case, we can be happy with the result.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2011 at 11:22 AM

  6. Wow


    August 17, 2011 at 11:10 AM

  7. My arachnophobia is getting better, I didn’t scream and turn pale when the picture showed up on the screen. I know better than to look for more details though.

    I can’t help it. I feel spiders are just ugly and I am grateful no really big ones crawl around here (Germany) – unless they escape from someone’s terrarium.

    It’s an impressive photo of course.


    August 17, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    • Glad to hear your arachnophobia is getting better, even if you didn’t linger on the details of the image.

      Spiders are so common here in Austin that I almost never spend much time taking pictures in nature without seeing a spider or spider silk or a spiderweb.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      • Oh, we have lots of spiders too, but very few are big or strong enough to bite through the skin of a human. I think garden spiders (Araneus Diadematus) are the biggest. I am wary of the banisters along the bridges, their fencelike structure is home to a lot of spiders. In the twilight and at night, when the lamps overhead attract insects, the spiders all come out to feast.


        August 17, 2011 at 4:59 PM

  8. I have to laugh at your comment about the early digital cameras. I love my new Canon Rebel, but my first digital camera took some nice shots. This one certainly is a keeper for you. The eye was definitely there before the technology caught up.



    August 20, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    • A few years after the time of this picture I went around with two cameras, one loaded with slide film and the other digital, and took pictures of some of the same things with both cameras. I’m sorry I didn’t do that from the outset, because the originals of some good pictures exist only as low-megapixel versions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 20, 2011 at 11:06 PM

  9. That’s a mighty spider! Great photo.


    August 22, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    • Why, thank you. I don’t think I’ve ever run across such a large spider in the decade since then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2011 at 11:19 AM

  10. This is actually a Nursery Web Spider (family Pisauridae), not a Wolf Spider (family Lycosidae). This looks like Dolomedes vittatus to me.

    Wolf spiders look a lot like Nursery Web Spiders. If you have a picture as good as the one you have here, there’s an easy way to tell the difference. Both have 4 smallish eyes foremost (anterior), but their rear 4 eyes (posterior) on Pisaurids are about equal in size and about equally spaced and in an even arc. On wolf spiders the middle posterior eyes are noticeably larger than the outside posterior eyes, and the outside posterior eyes face more sideways than forward

    If you don’t have as good a picture as this, you can also go by the height of the cephalothorax. Pisaurids have generally flat cephalothoraxes. A wolf spiders’ cephalothorax rises from the back and gets pretty tall in front, somewhat steep on the sides.

    This is a fantastic find. Dolomedes are not often encountered, and I have never ever seen on one a flower. Beautiful!

    Spider Joe

    February 27, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    • Thanks so much, Joe, for setting me straight on this. I’ve rewritten some of the text above to make it correct. It sure helps to have someone who knows spiders look at my pictures of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 28, 2012 at 5:53 AM

  11. […] Okay, I did a post about a wolf spider. […]

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