I don't know much about insects, spiders and other creepy crawlies, but that doesn't stop me from finding them endlessly intriguing. This week on my holiday, I was happily skipping up a street in a tiny village on the river Passer - one of the glacier-fed tributaries of the Adige in Northern Italy. The sun was beating down and it was 35C, so I was wearing my "action sandals" (those outdoor ones with lots of velcro straps).
This was when I found the scorpion.
A scorpion is not something you want to meet when your feet are exposed, although this one was clearly dead. It was about 4-5cm in length, dark peat-brown, and had lost it's stinger. I'd never seen a scorpion outside of a zoo or pet shop, so I took pictures to show my Italian/Austrian family. They were perplexed - "a scorpion? No, we don't have scorpions." I showed them the pictures. "You found that here?"
(There is a nice paper on European scorpions here)
Speaking of Arachnida, I am struck by the lack of spiders in the Alps compared with my homeland of Scotland. While reclining on my geranium-lined balcony, I marvelled at the heavy wooden beams of the building's construction. Back home, such a structure would be infested with spiders in every crevice, but not here. Why are there comparatively so few spiders in the Alps? The long winters? It certainly isn't a lack of flies...
Having said that, there were a lot of them on the slopes near the Jaufenpass (>2000m), where Italy and Austria share a border. These ones were like our wolf spiders and so sleek and fast I couldn't dream of getting a photograph. However, I did snap a few other arachnids on my travels. I tried to ID them, but admit to getting slightly nauseated (I'm a recovering arachnophobic). If anyone can help ID these little guys I would be much obliged (tweet @gsciencelady)
|This guy tried to capture me in his web. I declined the offer, and draped him on a fencepost instead. A crab spider I believe, but what kind? (Tweet @gsciencelady if you know)|
(24/6/15 - I've since identified this as a male Xysticus erraticus)
|A leggy little dude who wobbled up a wall before posing for this shot. A harvestman of unknown parentage (if you can ID him, tweet me)|
On a more fluttery note, the mountains were full of butterflies and moths.
|Probably Phengaris alcon, the alcon blue.|
|Can you ID this butterfly? |
(24/6/15 I now know this is not a butterfly, but a common heath moth, Ematurga atomaria)
|A grizzled skipper, Pyrgus malvae? Common across Europe and fabulously fuzzy.|
The wildflower meadows were buzzing with crickets and grasshoppers. They are a pain to photograph, especially when all you have is a point-and-click like mine. However I will leave you with this stealthy wee dude and the meadow he lived in. Enjoy!
Alpine blogs still to come: geology and botanics!
*There are other species occurring as far north as the UK, but they were introduced by humans. Naturally occurring refers to post-glacial distributions.