My husband said this title was far to risque’ but I’m going with it anyway. I would tell you to “get your mind out of the gutter,” but this is a SPIDER sex story. Sex education is not a bad thing and it’s good to know how it all works, right?
So male spiders have these fuzzy, enlarged “paws” that sort of hang down in front of their face. People who study spiders call them palps. They are sort of like a 5th pair of legs, but used by the spider to manipulate food and “smell” things. These palps are also where the sex organs are housed in adult male. The hairs on the palps have chemoreceptors that help the fellas follow the pheromone trails of SHE spiders. This is the mating season for one of our commonly seen spiders in the San Juans…the Giant House Spider (Eratigena duellica) who happens to be harmless, just horny.
How do spiders DO it? Well, an adult male spider will weave a small silken sheet called a sperm web. He deposits a drop of semen on the sheet and then dips the tips of his palps into the semen, drawing it up into what is called the emboli. The emboli act like a syringe, drawing the fluid up to be held in the palp for transfer to a SHE spider. With his palps “charged and loaded,” he gleefully wanders off to woo all the ladies.
Some of these male spiders really go all out to impress a gal. They will drum (with their palps), dance, and display all sorts of postures to show how great they are. They better do EVERYTHING they can to impress her too since SHE might eat them if it’s not good enough. Watch a jumping spider perform his quirky courtship ritual here –
I had to take the weekend off! Fatigue is setting in from the smoke and the yellow haze cast over the island isn’t helping. I’m weary of viewing responses from folks about how they want to “kill” any poor hapless spider that makes its way into their home. Arachnophobia is tough, but thousands of innocent creatures could escape a horrible death (stomping, squishing, flushing) as a result of human hysteria if only….if ONLY…that human might take a moment to educate themselves about the poor soul they just MURDERED. If you are guilty of this and you’re feeling badly, GOOD! It means there is hope for you to change your ways. Become an arachnid A-D-V-O-C-A-T-E!
A friend of mine shared the article linked below on Facebook today. It’s timely in that it speaks to the over sensationalized media reports that cast a negative light on spiders…and other insects. We need to change how we think of them! Check it out.
For today, please don’t relocate your little (or big) house spider outdoors! Leave it in the corner to do its thing. It’s going to wander a bit, but it isn’t going to bite you or harm your pets. Be curious about it. If you name it, it can become part of your family! If you want an ID for that spider, send me a message or post a photo on my Facebook Page (Bugs of the San Juan Islands).
Yesterday my husband was outside working on our deck (without much help from me). The weekend projects can be overwhelming, especially when I’m so easily distracted every time I find a BUG. This one was perfect for my post today!
First off, it’s a SHE spider! This fall beauty is a female Cross Orb Weaver, Araneus diadematus. She was hanging out on the side of the house, just under the eave. I had to carefully climb a ladder to get a photo, but it was completely worth the risk.
Orb Weavers are in the family Araneidae. These are some of the most beautiful and commonly seen spiders in our area. They weave the classic and typically vertical, orb-shaped web that we often see in our gardens.
While Araneus diadematus is not a native species and was introduced from Western and Northern Europe, it has become naturalized here and ranges across North America now. Bugguide.net gives the North American (including Canada) range for A. diadematus as the following localities – “diadematus – BC, WA, OR, MI, OH, PA, ON, NY, QC, RI, MA, NS, NL.”
Male and female specimens have different morphology (size, shape). Female body length can be from 6-20mm and they are fuller and more rounded. Male body length varies from 6-13mm and they are more narrowed in body shape.
Typically, even though they are around in spring, we don’t notice them until later in the fall (like now). Females will be waiting on their web for a wandering male to find them. Males are not usually seen on webs since they are often on the move to find “Miss Right.”
The female A. diadematus will lay her last clutch of eggs in fall before dying, usually timed with our first frost. The eggs will overwinter. The eggs will hatch in springtime when temperatures warm, releasing hundreds of baby spiderlings!
I found this interesting poem online about Orb Weavers that I’ll leave you with today. Thanks for stopping by!
Our cradle empty, we shall climb
To a high place, to catch the wind
And fly, strewing gossamer as we go,
Singly, flowing without will, to land
We shall know, by the compass
Blotched in white upon our backs,
Where to spin the spokes, and how
To spire the wheel; with one leg, feel
Approach too fast, and we shall quake,
And blur the whorl with shaking
From the underside, the compass
Pointing down, our legs the eight points
At night we eat the orb, conserve
The silk, to spin again by morning,
Indelicately, cramming all
Into open mouths, every spoke
We spin the globes of nurture
After mating, span them so,
With loving claws, adore the
Minor worlds we make, compass
Entwined in silk, their spinnerets
Are forming, massed bundles
Of eyes, and legs, and fangs
Entangling. Each of us
Source material. Veronica Godines, Araneus diadematus, http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu. Theodore H. Savory, The Spiders and Allied Orders of the British Isles, London, 1945, pp. 130–131. The common “Garden Spider” has a characteristic “cross” on its back, and is the archetypal orb-weaver. Immatures, already orphans by the time they emerge, go out to seek their fortunes by abseiling more or less at random on air-currents, attached to an anchor point by nothing but a thread of gossamer.
Today, I’m going to introduce you to Rod Crawford in my post. Rod is the curator and spider expert (GENIUS) at the Burke Museum in Seattle. He is the go-to guy for anything you would possibly want to know about spiders.
One thing I really like about Rod are his efforts to debunk some of the most common myths about spiders. For instance, putting that spider you find in your house outdoors is good for the spider and where it belongs. Nope. Nope. Nope,….and one more big ole’ NOPE! Take a look here to read what Rod says about where some spiders live (including indoors), and why tossing them outdoors is not a good idea.
Last night I spied this sweet little Pholcid spidee mom-to-be in the corner of our bedroom. Pholicid is short for Pholcidae, the Cellar spiders. These are the spiders we know colloquially as Daddy Long Legs or in her case, Mommy Long Legs. Not to be confused with the other sort of Daddy/Mommy Long Legs, the Harvestmen, which actually aren’t spiders at all!
This little “she” spider is most likely Pholcus phalangioides. My photos aren’t great. I was standing on a chair holding my phone out as long as my arm would reach to try and get a picture, but didn’t want to disturb her too much.
If you look closely, you’ll see she is carrying her eggs in her mouth. These eggs are carefully held in a delicate silk net until they hatch. Even after hatching, the teeny little spiderlings are carried around in their mother’s mouth until they are able to venture off on their own.
Pholcus phalangioides spiders are often found inside homes or structures, make untidy, haphazard webs, are great at catching pests in your home, including other spiders! Males live for about a year, dying usually after mating. Females can reach the very old age of 3. That’s quite a long time to have a spider in your home.
When I was a little girl, my mom read me this book, “Be Nice to Spiders.” We read it together many, many times! It was probably one of my earliest introductions to the wonder of ecological systems and definitely played a role in the development of my love for animals and nature.
My mom didn’t have the opportunity for a college education and was a pretty young mom at 23. She did however, grow up in the mountains of North Carolina, loved nature, and she had a “story” for everything! It made learning about leaves, bugs, rocks, and animals of all kinds really fun.
I was extremely lucky to have a mom like that and to be exposed to so many science opportunities, even though I didn’t really see it as science at the time. As a parent myself, and someone with a background in education, I can’t express enough to other parents out there how important it is to connect your children with nature…in a kind way! Help them to see living things with wonder and respect for all life. Especially spiders!
Here’s a YouTube read aloud of Be Nice to Spiders. There were several, but I just liked this woman for some reason. I’m sure the San Juan Island library has a copy of the book too, and if not, there’s always Griffin Bay Books, Serendipity, Abebooks, and Amazon where you can find a copy for your bookshelf.
There could be a few reasons you’re finding that spider in your sink or bathtub or shower!
Reason #1 – Lots of spiders are nocturnal, so while we’re sleeping they’re stealthily crossing the ceiling overhead. Sometimes one may bungee down to check things out below. If that happens to be over the tub, it’s possible the poor little (or BIG) spider just got stuck, unable to scale the walls of a slippery surface.
Same thing with the kitchen sink. A spider scurries across the counter too fast, one of those 8 legs slips or maybe a knee buckles (yes, spiders have knees), and the next thing that spider is facing is our equivalent of falling down into a deep well.
He…or SHE, needs someone to throw in a lifeline to get back out.
Reason #2 – Sometimes…yes, sometimes spiders end up in your tub or shower or sink because deep in the cracks or seals around the shower door or down in the drain, you have these teeny little spider snacks squirming around. That’s right! You might not see them, but even if your shower is squeaky clean, you probably have drain fly larvae living in your pipes.
Yikes! I got into our shower one morning and there were these teeny little wiggly worms down at my feet. When I poked around the rubber strip that prevents water from leaking out the shower door, there were MORE!
To help you visualize this, I’ll try and get creative. I’m not a very good drawer, so I scribbled in the wriggling larvae to enhance this image I found online. In my mind, I pictured the woman in the movie Psycho, screaming at the top of her lungs since the scientific name for drainflies is Pscho-di-dae!
The adults aren’t scary looking at all though. They’re called Moth Flies and they are sort of cute…and fuzzy-wuzzy! The larvae, also called sewer flies, actually are beneficial and help purify water, so I am viewing them now as an important part of an ecosystem while trying to get over being creeped out by them around my feet.
I also am much more welcoming to my house spiders now that I know they are working hard to save me from DRAIN FLIES!
Reason #3 – Did you know that spiders drink water? Yes…sometimes spiders end up in the sink, bathtub, or shower because spiders get thirsty! I actually had a little spider I found in my home that was in a declining way and Rod Crawford (also known as the Spider Whisperer) at the Burke Museum messaged me about how to give it a drink. Here’s what he said, “For future reference, the way to give a spider a drink is to rest the mouth area (under the front of the “head”) directly in a drop of water.” I must confess that now I’m so sensitive to spiders needing water that whenever I get one out of the bathtub, I’ve put a moistened cotton ball on the floor nearby so it won’t die of thirst!
Spider Sleuthing Day 3 – Classifying Spiders. The (VERY) Beginner Basics. Spider classification (for North America) consists basically of two different groups. These are the infraorders: Araneomorphae (the “true” spiders) and Mygalomorphae (the tarantulas and trapdoor spiders).
What are “true” spiders? Why those are the ones that aren’t Mygalomorphs! What??? I confess, I’m having to read up on this as I type this post. I DID, however, disclose that I am an entomologist and not an arachnologist in my DAY 2 post, and I can count to 6 (if you read my earlier post, you’ll get my joke), and that is high enough to tell you that these groups are partially differentiated by the number of book lungs a spider has.
Book lungs are the main respiratory organ in arachnids. Mygalomorphs have 4 book lungs and Araneomorphs have only 2. See, we got to SIX! 😁
The other difference between these two spider groups has to do with how they chew. Well, sort of. A more scientific description would be to say the directionality of movement of their chelicerae.
Yep. Let’s just make it easy today and say, Mygalomorph’s mouthparts move in a parallel direction (move your first two fingers towards each other like you’re making air quotes) and Araneomorph’s mouthparts are oriented in an opposing way (touch your forefinger to your thumb in a pincer-like way). For more about this, you’re welcome to delve into the deep world of spider systematics here – https://www.jstor.org/stable/2097274?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
Sorting spiders involves numerous other factors including morphological differences such as eye arrangement, hairs, body shape, number of claws and even what type of web they make or whether they make a web at all!
As to webs, well that’s going to be a post of its own. There are ALL sorts of webs and knowing their names and being able to identify them will be a tool for figuring out what sort of spider you may have.
I have run out of time for my post today, but I will leave you with a few links to check out so you can learn more of the basic morphology that all spiders share: 8 legs, head or (cephalothorax region), abdomen…Oh, and the cutie on my finger is one of my house spider friends. She’s a jumping spider (Salticus scenicus) and her name is Skipper.
Sleuthing Spiders Day TWO! It’s all about the NAME.
Did you know I name the spiders in my house? I also can recognize some of the cuties that are repeat offenders. Repeat offenders? Oh yes! These are the ones who I find in my kitchen or bathroom sink on a regular basis.
I even have some that end up in the shower or bathtub. The toilet you ask? Well, we keep our toilet lids down so they don’t accidentally fall in and drown. Also, keeping that toilet lid down (especially when you flush) prevents weird germy bacteria and viruses from spewing out into the air where you might breathe it back in! That’s another topic entirely though. Tomorrow, I’ll cover why spiders end up in bathrooms in the first place, so stay tuned!
Are any of these spiders in my house going to bite me? Doubtful. And, even if they did, most likely all that would happen is NOTHING! At most, I might feel a small pinch like I did when the one hanging out in my bath towel bit me.
I knew it was a spider because I was patting myself dry, felt it bite my leg, then watched it drop to the floor. Sadly, I was the one inflicting pain and had mortally wounded the poor creature. All I suffered was a tiny raised red mark on my skin that went away in less than 20 minutes.
Was I worried about the bite? First off, I’m no spider expert because entomologists study INSECTS and spiders are ARACHNIDS. It’s all about legs (and math). Entomologists can’t count beyond 6 and Arachnologists can count to 8. Bad joke, right? I wasn’t worried because most spiders (and I’m referring to the ones that are found in the San Juan Islands) are harmless (or you can use the scientific description of “medically insignificant” to impress your friends)!
Learning to correctly identify some of these spiders will put your fears to rest. We’ll go through some of the ones commonly found in homes, especially at this time of year. We will learn to identify a black widow and where they might be found. Also, we’ll be learning about widow look-a-likes that you might not want to squish in your home because they chase the real widows away!
I named my spider Tinkerbelle! I think Tinkerbelle is a SHE spider. Tinkerbelle is giant house spider hanging out in my bathroom this week. Her scientific name is Eratigena duellica.
I looked around the ceiling of the bathroom and can see little shelf-like webs where some of those super irritating fruit flies are landing. I’ve resisted my OCD urges to clean the webs away and actually appreciating the natural pest control that is free of toxic chemicals.
If you want to become FEAR-Less of Giant House Spiders, and we’ll be seeing LOTS of them through the upcoming fall months, someone I know put together an awesome YouTube video about them. You can check out Arlo’s video here –
AND, don’t forget! Post your spider photos here! Brownie points for whoever has the most creative name!
This little creature was photographed on February 28, 2020 by Trever Santora on San Juan Island, WA.
It’s a Pseudoscorpion! Found on the windowsill of his house and no larger than a tiny sesame seed, I believe it to be an immature House Pseudoscorpion (Cheliferidae cancroides).
Keep an eye out for these. They’re quite harmless to humans and can’t sting or bite you. Pseudoscorpions are predacious and beneficial because they eat other organisms that are pests. Some live in birds’ nests and eat the mites that can build up and harm nestlings.
Since they don’t have wings and can’t fly, pseudoscorpions move around by phoresy. That means they’ll hitch a ride on someone who can! Not just birds, but bees, wasps, and flies can also provide a free lift.