The Sierra Dome Spider is a sheet weaver in the family Linyphiidae. They build horizontal webs with a dome shaped center supported by non-sticky tangle webs (for some photos of these webs see my blog ‘In Search of Spiders’). When the prey falls onto the dome the spider, which has been hanging upside down beneath the dome, comes to it from below and bites it through the web, which presumably helps to protect the spider from its intended victim.
Males have been found to ‘stake out’ nearly mature females by living in the same web with them. They also engage in much ritualized combat as they compete for females, often in view of the females, who not only place quantities of pheromones on their web, but have been shown to emit pheromones in aerosol form to attract males from a greater distance. Successful breeding males often stay near the female for extended periods after mating. But Neriene litigiosa females are polyandrous and once that male has left they will often mate with other ones. Paul Watson, who has done several studies of these fascinating spiders, has shown that this strategy has benefits to the survival rates of the young.
Sierra Dome Spiders are small spiders (body length 5-8mm), but they are the largest Linyphiidae in North America. Though they are small, they are distinctive. The combination of long, thin legs and elongated white abdomen with these black markings and yellow shading at the posterior end, is diagnostic in our region. They feed on small prey such as flies, midges, and leafhoppers. They are found at forest edges and in brushy open areas. They can be found region wide near forested areas. Adults are active from early spring until the first hard frosts.
Neriene was the wife of Mars in Roman mythology, and as a noun the word meant bravery. The species epithet litigiosa means contentious. I can find nothing to suggest what either of them actually references as regards this spider. But based on reading Paul Watson’s papers it seems both may have referenced the male’s willingness to battle.
Habitat- Forest edges and brushy clearings
Range- Region wide in forested areas
Eats- Flies, midges, leafhoppers, and other small prey
Season- Adults active mid spring until first hard frosts