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SELWYN TIMES Latest Christchurch news at www.star.kiwi Wednesday January172018 13 Backyard Critters Rain eases fire risk in region Mike Bowie is an ecologist who specialises in entomology (insects and other invertebrates). Each week he introduces a new species found in his backyard at Lincoln. His column aims to raise public awareness of biodiversity, the variety of living things around us ONE OF the largest spiders around my backyard in Lincoln is the sheet-web spider of the genus cambridgea, a genus that comprises 31 New Zealand endemic species. Their webs are horizontal structures that can be almost a metre across, but have fine, vertical trip lines that knock down flying insects into the web. The spiders are nocturnal and retreat into a cylindrical web chamber during the day. Cambridgea are commonly found in shady habitats in trees, but often blunder into ITSY BITSY SPIDER: Cambridgea spiders are variable in size but their long legs can span 100mm. Feared but harmless hand basins or baths. They are variable in size but their long legs can span 100mm. This combined with the large, pale abdomen and large fangs can make these spiders look imposing. They are, however, quite harmless. RECENT RAIN has eased the fire risk across the district. But authorities say it will only take a few hot nor’westerly days to push it up again. “There is still a lot of summer to go and conditions can change quickly,’’ said Darrin Woods, Christchurch/Selwyn rural fire district principal rural fire officer. He said if the weather returns to as it was before Christmas, when temperatures were routinely in the high-20s and early 30s, the countryside will very quickly dry out, escalating the fire risk. “We’re also asking that on hot days, particularly when it’s windy, people take extreme care when doing any activities that may produce sparks such as grinding, welding or even mowing lawns on stony ground,’’ Mr Woods said. It is important people report any fires or smoke to 111 immediately, he said. A restricted fire season has been in place across Christchurch, Selwyn, Hurunui and Waimakariri districts since the start of December. This means people must apply for a permit if they want to light a fire in open air. Anyone who lights a fire without a permit can expect a visit from Fire and Emergency New Zealand. It will extinguish any fire that does not meet the conditions of the restricted fire season. To find out how to apply for a fire permit, go to www.checkitsalright.nz. If you don’t have access to the website, call Fire and Emergency New Zealand on 0800 658 628. Mr Woods says Fire and Emergency New Zealand is constantly monitoring the conditions and will consider changes to the fire season status if further forecast rain arrives over the coming weeks and the countryside continues to green up.