Category Archives: Arachnid

Spider Sleuthing in The San Juans – Day 6, Mommy Long Legs!

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!  

Pholcus phalangioides with egg sack 09.05.2020 – San Juan Island, WA
Pholcus phalangioides with egg sack 09.05.2020 – San Juan Island, WA

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 with egg sack 09.05.2020 – San Juan Island, WA


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.


I’ll leave you with a few neat links to check out:  What to expect when your Cellar Spider is expecting – http://ibycter.com/what-to-expect-when-your-cellar-spider-is-expecting/ , Two months in the life of a mummy long legs –http://spiderblogger.blogspot.com/2011/01/daddy-long-legs-hatching.html  and last but not least (this one has incredible photos), Daddy-longlegs, vibrating or cellar spiders https://ednieuw.home.xs4all.nl/Spiders/Pholcidae/Pholcidae.htm


Thanks for reading!  Be nice to spiders.  

Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 5 Be Nice to Spiders!

Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham


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 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.

Sleuthing Spiders Day 4- Why is that spider in my bathtub?

hello!

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!  

Please be my friend! (Salticus scenicus), a little jumper ❤️


Thanks for reading.  Remember….Be nice to spiders!  To read more about spiders knees – Check out this link!  How many knees does a spider have?  https://infinitespider.com/how-many-knees-does-a-spider-have/#more-3706

Sleuthing Spiders in the San Juans – Day 3 – Classifying Spiders, the Very Beginner Basics!

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. This little one is a jumping spider (Salticus scenicus), named Skipper.

(Salticus scenicus)

More on Spider Anatomy here – https://www.earthlife.net/chelicerata/s-anatomy.htmlhttp://biologyandbiodiversityinspiders.weebly.com/spider-anatomy.html

***Hint to remembering the Mygalomorphs – *The majority of species in the Mygalomorphae are tarantulas, in the family Theraphosidae (in French, a tarantula is called a ‘mygale’

Sleuthing Spiders in the San Juans- Day TWO (It’s all about the NAME!)

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!

But today! Today, we are going to NAME that spider in our house. I found a list of very cool spider names online (check out either of these links if you need ideas – https://animalhype.com/arachnids/spider-names/ and https://petpress.net/pet-spider-names/ My favorites were Zorro, Otto, Blossom, Skreech, Jinx, Twitch, Tinkerbelle, and get this…SPINDRA!

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.

Giant House Spider (Eratigena duellica)
Giant House Spider (Eratigena duellica)
Shelf-like spider webs in bathroom

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!

https://www.facebook.com/events/2753071885020278

The House Pseudoscorpion (Cheliferidae cancroides)

I got the coolest picture of a bug on Friday! 

House Pseudoscorpion (Cheliferidae cancroides)
2/28/2020
San Juan Island
photo by T. Santora
House Pseudoscorpion (Cheliferidae cancroides)
2/28/2020
San Juan Island
photo by T. Santora

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.

Check out https://bugguide.net/node/view/728962 for more information.

Thanks for reading 🌻

Cicurina spp. February 19, 2020

This spider is in the genus Cicurina, also known as the Cave Meshweaver or Cave Spider. Pronounced “sik-uhr-EYE-nuh,” the Latin name translates to “tame” or “mild.”

From Buggide.net and according to Rod Crawford:

Cicurina of Western Washington: “C. pusilla is by far the commonest. C. simplex and C. “idahoana” (really an undescribed species related to idahoana, in my opinion) are moderately common. Cicurina tersa is less common than the previous three. The other Cicurina of western Washington are actually rare here, C. tacomaand C. intermedia.” ~Rod Crawford

Cicurina spp.
Found in Rotting Fir log. 2.19.2020. Three Corner Lake Road, San Juan Island, WA
Size – approx 5mm
Photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Identified by A. Pelegrin and L. Paxson at Pacfic Norwest Bugs
Cicurina spp.
Found in Rotting Fir log. 2.19.2020. Three Corner Lake Road, San Juan Island, WA
Size – approx 5mm
Photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Identified by A. Pelegrin and L. Paxson at Pacfic Norwest Bugs

References:

Adams, R.J. 1970. Field Guide to the Spiders of California and the Pacific Coast States. California Natural History Guides. University of California Press. Los Angeles.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10219387419670050&set=gm.3092310434134350&type=3&theater&ifg=1

https://bugguide.net/node/view/236713

Steotoda grossa (The False Widow)

It’s been raining a lot in the Pacific Northwest. Between the deluge and the cool temps, it’s definitely not the season for bug viewing. Being indoors, in rainy winter weather, when you live on an island equals boredom, cabin fever, and winter blues. You have to make your own sunshine or you get SADD.

I found my sunshine today in the barn. I went down to take better photos of the spiders I discovered over the weekend residing in the well pump house (inside the barn). I get really excited finding any sort of invertebrate this time of year.

This shiny arachnid had me fooled the first time I found one. She’s not a real widow, but a False Widow (Steotoda grossa). False widow spiders are not native to Washington. They were imported from Europe, but are widely distributed and considered a cosmopolitan species. We have lots in the basement of our house!

When I was in the well pump house, I found three females, each in her own corner, tending her egg sacks.

A very shiny Steotoda grossa female

I also found a lone Callobius severus (male?) on the wall… just hanging out. He was alive. I gently blew on him to see if he moved. He did.

Callobius severus (male?)

Steotoda grossa spiders are actually quite beneficial, preying on invertebrates like pillbugs, but they are famous for eating other spiders that humans don’t particularly want to encounter, like Hobo spiders or Black Widows. They construct flimsy or loosely woven, somewhat messy webs and seem to love corners in outbuildings and basements (at least from my personal experience). Female Steotoda grossa spiders have been recorded living as long as 6 years, while males have a much shorter lifespan no longer than 1.5 years.

Loosely constructed Steotoda grossa web with round egg sacks

While not aggressive, Steotoda grossa spiders will sometimes bite people. They see very poorly and react mostly to vibrations when responding to threats. A bite from a False Widow is not life threatening, but some individuals may have a localized reaction to the bite.

Thanks for reading! 🕸🕷

Steotoda grossa female with egg sack

Steotoda grossa female (upper center, above red mark) with egg sacks

Not a Spider!

Harvestman probably Phalangium opilio

I found this the other morning (Sept. 8, 2018) when my husband had to drive over to unlock the gates at Mount Grant, San Juan Island Land Bank Preserve.

While I was waiting for him at the top, I had a chance to photograph this really interesting spider (or so I thought). It had 8 legs and looked like a spider to me, but not one I’d seen before on San Juan Island. I spent that evening going through my spider ID book without any luck.

So I sent off an email to Rod Crawford, curator of the arachnid collection at the Burke Museum in Seattle and all around “spider man” genius. Here was his response.

“Dear Cyndi,
The reason you could not find the top specimen in the Adams spider book, is that it isn’t a spider. It’s a harvestman (member of a separate order of arachnids). Even a scorpion is more closely related to a spider, than a harvestman is. Harvestmen have segmented bodies that are all in one piece (not 2 separate pieces), 2 eyes close together on a little bump, totally different mouthparts, respiratory system and reproductive system, no venom and no silk. Yours is probably the common European import Phalangium opilio.”

So, I learned something new today. I hope this will inspire you to read up on Harvestmen or Opiliones. I know that’s what I’ll be doing this evening for my light reading! Here’s a link to get you started ~ https://bugguide.net/node/view/33857 and while you’re at it, check out Rod Crawford’s great spider myth’s website at https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/arachnology-and-entomology/spider-myths

Illustration of a Harvestman

Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 9 – How to get that spider out of your bathtub!

IMG_7516

Eek there’s a spider in the tub!

Eek! There’s a spider in the bathtub!  Do you really want to turn on the water and drown it?  Hopefully you are not nodding your head “yes,” but instead finding courage to overcome your arachnophobia and finding a tiny bit of compassion.  Just take a deep breath.  Get a towel, or a cup and a card, and find your brave inner self to save this poor little eight-legged individual to live out its life.   Say this mantra with me….”Be NICE to spiders!”  Then say it over and over and over to yourself.  It will make you a much more confident person. You can tell your friends and co-workers about how YOU got a spider out of the BATHTUB!

At my house, the number one threat to spiders is my cat.  Millhouse is determined his job is to be spider exterminator.  He squashes them.  He used to eat them!  Once he ate one.  He fainted.  I had to rush him to the vet.  He revived on the way.  The next time, he bit one and spit it out.  I don’t know if the spider was foaming from being punctured or if the cat was foaming because well….maybe cats foam at the mouth sometimes when they eat something they shouldn’t.  In any case, he’s evolving his kill techniques.  Now he eats too much cat food and uses his massive body weight (he thinks it’s muscle) to flatten them.

I’m on the other side.  My job is to save them. It was a good thing I saw this one before Millhouse did.  You see, Millhouse loves to drink his water out of the bathtub.  I have to leave the water dripping for him.  That’s why you’ll note the stain on the tub.  It’s from hard well water.  One day I will scrub off the yellowing, but for now, pretend it’s not there.

The first thing I recommend to get the spider out is to grab something like a hand towel or a plastic cup and some sort of paper (mailer, index card, envelop, etc.).  I used a towel.  Watch my video and see how easy it is!  The spider isn’t going to bite you.  It just wants OUT of the tub.  Probably it was thirsty.  See my post from October 27, and you can read all about how to give a dehydrated spider a drink.  At this point, it needs your help.  It is stuck.  The sides of the tub are too slippery for it to crawl out.    It’s really easy!  Here goes…

The general idea is to be extremely gentle.  You don’t want to injure the spider.  Keep chanting your mantra…”Be nice to spiders!”  Over and over and over!

Hackelmesh Weaver Callobius.severus

Safe!

See!  It’s not that hard.  The spider didn’t attack me.  Isn’t it so cute! By the way, this spider is a Hackelmesh weaver (Callobius severus) https://bugguide.net/node/view/7018 .  I checked later today and it has crawled off somewhere.  Happy to escape the cat!

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