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Bordertown retiree's backyard spider photos lead to scientific discovery

Close up photo of small spider
One of the more than 70 species of spider found in Allan Lance's garden

Supplied: Allan Lance

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While many people do their best to avoid spiders, Allan Lance goes out into his garden at night searching for them.

"The neighbours think I'm a bit weird wandering around outside with a torch, but they've got over it, so everything is OK in that department," said the amateur photographer, whose photos have been published in a book and field guide on spiders.

The Bordertown retiree's photos have also been included in the National Museum's spider exhibition which has been seen in Canberra and Sydney, with plans to take it to Launceston, Newcastle and Darwin in the coming months.

Watching you, watching me - a close up of small spider
Watching you, watching me - a close up of small spider

Supplied: Allan Lance

Mr Lance has also been credited with finding a new genus of small jumping spider (Maratus nimbus), which he could have had named after him if he wished.

"There's been about three areas where they've been found, but mine was the first photograph and mine was the spider that was supplied for the proper identification rituals and is the specimen in Sydney for this particular genus," he said.

"They are in my garden in small numbers and I can find them by accident every couple of months through summer."

Maratus nimbus spider identified in Allan's garden
The Maratus nimbus spider identified in Allan Lance's garden.

Supplied: Allan Lance

Another unidentified Maratus spider in his garden was proving more elusive.

He had seen it three times in four years, and while he had photographed it, he needed to catch one and send it to Sydney to be properly identified.

Mr Lance estimated there were 70 to 80 species of spider in his backyard.

"What you have to do mainly is find the little blighters, and that's a learning experience," said Mr Lance, who had no spider phobia and treated them with respect.

"You probably couldn't go out there and find more than two or three.

"Until you become aware of where to look and how to look, you won't [find more]."

Accidental interest attracts international attention

"I started off out in the garden with flowers and insects, and seeing it had a macro lens, I went on to spiders.

"I put [photos] onto Flickr and it raised a bit of interest in Queensland and Western Australia where people who are arachnologists were studying spiders.

Bordertown photographer Allan Lance

By Stuart Stansfield

"While my photos don't actually give you an identification, they do give them a rough idea of where in Australia they might find some species," he said.

A fly trap hanging at the back of his house traps meals for the spiders he catches for closer study.

He has had visits from a German spider enthusiast and two American students keen to talk to him and see his garden.

Mr Lance said joining the Naracoorte Camera Club had helped him improve his photography skills, as he had never been interested in the art.

He said the hobby took up a lot of time but he enjoyed the challenge and mental stimulation it provided.

"You have to do research, you have to keep your brain ticking over which is a little bit of a problem when you get elderly," Mr Lance said.

"I can't do a lot of physical stuff because I did my back in farming, but I really enjoy the mental test of sorting this sort of stuff out," he said, adding with a smile that spiders preferred messy gardens.