I think many of you will be delighted to know that big spider season is ending soon. These big spiders which come into houses in autumn, are looking for mates. These unseen females are much stockier than their suitors, and generally stay in their webs, often hidden from pulic view. In order to let their boyfriends find them they release pheromones onto the air, and the males come running.
The males then live for a number of weeks or months in the webs with the females and leave before the young are born, or are killed and eaten for overstaying their welcomes. As a result, sensible males who leave early can grow to immense size and apparently live quite a few years. But by now most of the females have mats and will stop releasing pheromones and the males will go back to their regular lives, if they avoid the various predators that delight in eating them, especially Robins and Blackbirds, but Wrens too.
There is a whole host of incredible wildlife in the Wicklow countryside at the moment, and often going unnoticed. Keep your eyes peeled. Here is a superb example which I found two days ago, the gigantic snake-like caterpillar of the Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor). Hawkmoths are the largest moths found in Ireland, and we are not short of them in Wicklow, although they are relatively rarely seen. Some, as I previously mentioned, can be as large as small birds. And their caterpillars are gigantic and often spectacular, such as this example.
When alarmed, or irritated, this caterpillar rears up as those going to strike. But if further irritated it will lie down and go through a series of frightening spasms, which make it look as though it has been mortally wounded, as though an electric shock was running through its body. It’s a harmless creature though, mostly feeding on Rosebay Willowherb, which most gardeners consider a weed, although it is a beautiful wild flower to we naturalists. Believe it or not, the moth is actually more spectacular than its caterpillar, but I have no photos of it yet. My To-Do List is ever-growing.