Trail in Namibia Trail in Namibia

New Forest Spiders

I spent all day Saturday on a natural navigation exercise in the New Forest.

For almost all of the day there was total cloud cover and very little wind. These are ideal conditions for the toughest natural navigation exercises, because there is no choice but to study the ground clues very carefully.

We used heather, tree shapes, uprooted trees and spiders’ webs a lot and managed to find our way successfully across the Forest, just.

The picture above is not a deep space image of a distant nebula, but a snap of a gorse spider mite colony (tetranychus lintearius).

The gorse spider feeds on gorse and builds these dramatic homes. But like almost all spiders, their homes are not built randomly and are influenced strongly by temperature, sun and wind. This leads to certain aspects being favoured and that assymetry can help with navigation clues.

If you look at the two images below, taken from opposite sides of the same gorse bush, you’ll see what I mean.

Here is a picture of the same colony a bit closer up: