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Zebra Spider Salticus scenicus

Jumping spiders are named after their hunting way: they jump on their prey, often from quite a distance. Before jumping they attach a wire to the surface they are sitting on. In this way they can always return to the place they jumped from. They never weave a web though. Because they jump on their prey, jumping spiders have to be able to judge the distance. That can be best done with two (or four) eyes slightly apart thus giving a stereoscopic view. People and owls have two adjacent eyes just for that purpose. The jumping spiders have six eyes and two of them are extremely large. Their main function is to estimate distance.

The Zebra Spider is a very small species, only some 5 to 7 millimeters in length. You can often find it on sunny spots on walls. It is especially ative on sunny days (even in winter) and hides on cloudy days. When you have its attention it will lift its head in order to follow every your movement with the big eyes. It can be 'tamed' and accepts food: it will gladly take a plant louse offered in a set of pincers. The males have very big black shiny jaws. These are used to impress the females and to fight among one another.

There are two similar species: Salticus cingulatus and Salticus zebraneus. The three species are similar, but normally can be told apart. Salticus zebraneus is small (3 to 5 millimeters) and is often not striped really. It is not found on walls or fences, but on old tree trunks exclusively. Is adult from April to late July, so can not be seen in winter or autumn. Salticus cingulatus is just as big as the Zebra Spider, but the dark parts are usually less dark, for they also contain some white or grey hairs. It too is rarely found on walls, but has been seen on fences. Normally it lives on tree trunks, but does not really prefer old tree trunks, which Salticus zebraneus does. Adult animals are seen from June to September. So animals seen on walls are almost certainly Zebra Spiders and animals seen on walls between September and April are definitely Zebra Spiders. By the way: in Britain the Zebra Spider is very common, and even wide spread, especially in England and Wales, more scattered in Scotland. Salticus cingulatus is a rather local species, but has been reported from the north of Scotland. Salticus zebraneus is found locally in South East England only, including Kent, Sussex and London. It has never been seen in Wales, Scotland or Ireland.