Tag Archives: Arachnid

Wanna feel my palps? Said the HE to the SHE. This is a Spider Sex Story 😱

Wanna feel my palps?  Said the HE to the SHE.  

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 –

https://www.scientificamerican.com/video/spiders-perform-a-spooky-seduction-dance/?fbclid=IwAR16qMBBajQ7UVnZAZHepFCuHToEch2LCtUETkKlSFB6r31qZKMgN2zygqc

If mating is successful, the male usually makes his exit…quite literally.  He’s at the end.  

And THAT, my friends, is the end of this spider sex story.  

Thanks for reading!  

SPIDER SLEUTHING IN THE SAN JUANS – DAY 14 – Arach-no-phobia

Let’s break down this fear you have about spiders! Take the word ARACHNOPHOBIA here. If you break it into parts Arach -NO-phobia, it will be easier. Just focus on the NO PHOBIA part, and watch the short clip below of my jumping spider friend who came out daily to “play” in our sunroom for over a week. Yes…every day at 3 o’clock, it would peek out from behind our door trim and hop onto my finger.

Spiders don’t want to bite you. They are our friends! Sweet little souls who provide wonderful (free) pest control services in and around our homes.

Salticus scenicus jumping spider wants to play

September Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 10 – A Home with Folding Doors

I found this spider in our barn in August and thought it was dead, so I did what I often do – grab it and pick it up! Hmmm. This spider moved. It was alive.

This is a Folding Door Spider, Antrodiaetus pacificus. While I’m not 100% certain, I do believe this is a male since there was no burrow nearby and it’s “wandering” season. Most of the time, females are inside or near the entrance to their burrow.

Folding door spiders are the “tarantulas” of the Pacific Northwest. Their scientific name comes from Greek antrodiaitos (αντροδιαιτος)- “living in caves”, from antron (αντρον)- “cave” + diaita (διαιτα)- “way of life, dwelling” – according to https://bugguide.net/node/view/23442 They build their homes (burrows) in rotting or decaying wood or moss, living in moist, forested areas where they are rarely seen.

Females are approximately 13mm in size, with males a bit smaller at 11mm. They are classified as Mygalomorph spiders, the more primitive spiders with one pair of book lungs.

Occasionally, they become victims of spider hunting wasps. These wasps sting and paralyze the spider, then drag them into a burrow. The wasp lays her eggs on the spider, then leaves. The developing larvae feast on the poor spider while it is still alive.

Please be kind to these harmless, gentle giants!

Antrodiaetus pacificus – San Juan Island, WA 08.10.2020
Antrodiaetus pacificus – San Juan Island, WA 08.10.2020
Antrodiaetus pacificus – San Juan Island, WA 08.10.2020

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 🌻

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!

The lone wolf at my door! Tarentula kochii a.k.a. Alopecosa kochii

Here’s a clip of my little Wolf Spider, Tarentula kochii a.k.a. Alopecosa kochii (ID credit to  Rod Crawford at Seattle’s Burke Museum). He ever-so-kindly responded to my email query for help.  According to Rod, this spider is “a local native wolf spider and somewhat uncommon and rare.”   I found it in the doorway two days ago (10-23-18) and worried the cat injured it, but as you can see, it is moving a little. After examining it carefully, it looks uninjured, but possibly suffering from another spider bite…recent molt…or dehydration.   I attempted to get it to drink some water using a tiny syringe but was unsuccessful…or perhaps too late.  I also got some great advice on the correct way to give spiders a drink of water from Rod, who says:  “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.”

 

If you are interested in learning more about this species of Wolf Spider, here are some links to check out:

https://bugguide.net/node/view/1490575

Click to access A42-42-1990-17-eng.pdf

 

 

 

Carl the Crab Spider (Coriarachne brunneipes)

My mother used to read a book to me when I was a small child called Be Nice To Spiders!  The little boy in the book brings a spider (named Helen) to the zoo in a matchbox because he isn’t allowed to keep her in his apartment.  When the zookeeper opens the box, Helen escapes and sets up residence in the animal cages where she helps all the animals by eating the flies that make them miserable.  IMG_6296

This story was one of many experiences I enjoyed that set me up for a lifetime of observing invertebrates and their behaviors.  Today, I am sharing about a small crab spider I found in our house this week.  It took me all week to identify it, but I persisted and even managed to keep the little guy safe from Millhouse.  Millhouse is the resident cat.  He likes to eat spiders.  That’s another story and a good one, but I’ll save it for next time.

Today, meet “Carl” the Black Crab spider, also known more formally as Coriarachne brunneipes.  Black Crab Spiders are classified taxonomically in the family Thomisidae (Crab Spiders), genus Coriarachne, and species brunneipes.  They are found ranging across the Western U.S. from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast…and in my case, on San Juan Island, WA. 98250!   The Black Crab spider is relatively small in size.  About 1.9 cm or equivalent to the diameter of a penny if you include its leg span (see photo below from Wednesday, April 25, 2018).

IMG_6239

(Coriarachne brunneipes)

You can also see in my photo that Carl is missing a leg!  3 + 4 only equals 7 and spiders have 8 legs!  Maybe Millhouse DID do something to this spider after all!

I left Carl to go about things on Wednesday after taking this photo.  Seems like I remember seeing him scurry towards the crack under the baseboard and safety from the cat.  Thursday, my new “friend” was on the ceiling in the sunroom.  I nearly stepped on Carl on Friday.  He was back on the floor, skittering towards the baseboard along the wall again.

IMG_6238

Coriarachne brunneipes

 

Saturday, Carl was on the table in the sunroom.  I decided to take a few more photos and I also decided that Carl might be getting hungry since I haven’t seen anything suitable for him to eat in the house.  Also after reading about this species of spider, I understood it was possible he came into the house accidentally on some wood and might like it better if he was outside, but it was cold and rainy on Saturday, so I fixed him a nice spider hotel room for the night.  He liked the view from the “balcony.”  Sorry Carl, no room service available!

IMG_6310

Coriarachne brunneipes

On Sunday after it warmed up a little, I took Carl down to our orchard.  It was easy to coax him onto a twig.  I held him up against a low branch on the apple tree and up he went.  There was a veritable feast waiting for him in the apple tree.  Tiny little morsels just the right size for a spider!

 

Some interesting facts about Coriarachne brunneipes, the black crab spider:

  • Their coloring helps camouflage them perfectly on tree bark
  • They don’t build webs, but wait perfectly still to ambush their prey

Interested?  Read more about Crab Spiders here: 

https://bugguide.net/node/view/222302/bgpage

Taxonomy ~ http://www.americanarachnology.org/JoA_free/JoA_v2_n3/JoA_v2_p183.pdf