Tag Archives: arachnids

San Juan County, WA Spider Information – Resource Sheet 

Scared of Spiders?  Here’s a go-to info-sheet (that I plan to update as time allows) with links to verifiable, research-backed Spider Information/Literature.  Let’s end all the misinformation and our arachnophobia.  Too often people buy into false reports.  Don’t listen to someone’s tall tale of horror.  These stories are sensationalized and inaccurate.  Know the facts.  Dispel the rumors.  Spiders are not out to kill you.  It’s just not true. 

YOU have to do the reading!  These are scientifically based, accurate studies with information related to spider bites.  

Hobo Spiders (Tegenaria agrestis) ****Medically insignificant 

*Bennett RG, Vetter RS. An approach to spider bites. Erroneous attribution of dermonecrotic lesions to brown recluse or hobo spider bites in Canada. Can Fam Physician. 2004 Aug;50:1098-101. PMID: 15455808; PMCID: PMC2214648 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2214648/pdf/15455808.pdf.

*Melissa M. Gaver-Wainwright, Richard S. Zack, Matthew J. Foradori, Laura Corley Lavine, Misdiagnosis of Spider Bites: Bacterial Associates, Mechanical Pathogen Transfer, and Hemolytic Potential of Venom From the Hobo Spider, Tegenaria agrestis (Araneae: Agelenidae), Journal of Medical Entomology, Volume 48, Issue 2, 1 March 2011, Pages 382–388, https://doi.org/10.1603/ME09224

How to identify and misidentify a Hobo Spiderhttps://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2210/2015/05/PLS116_1.pdf

Brown Recluse Spiders (Loxoceles sp) – NO! I repeat “NO, none, nada!” established populations in our area.  

In the attached links below, you will find links to information about the Brown Recluse Spider.  Information that comes from a verified, reputable source – from an actual expert.  Brown Recluse spiders do not live in the San Juan Islands.  Caveat: this is not to say that if you move here from an area where there ARE established populations, one might be found hitching on your moving boxes.  It’s possible, BUT – they have not been able to survive and breed here.  If you see a large brown spider in your house – especially on the ceiling, it is most likely (99.99%) going to be a Giant House Spider (Eratigena duellica).  They are very common and harmless.  If you don’t like them, just catch in a cup and take it to a sheltered area outside – preferably another structure where it might have a chance to survive.  They won’t hurt you. 

Map showing distribution of Brown Recluse spiders (Please note that San Juan County is NOT found on this map)  – https://spiders.ucr.edu/spiders-map

Map of Brown Recluse Spider distribution – UC Riverside

Where else can I find reliable information on Spiders?

There are a few sources I’ll list here.  The first two are the ones you should look at first.  They are valuable resources with information from highly credentialed experts in all things arachnid-related.  If you read something written by either Rod Crawford (Seattle Burke Museum curator of the arachnid collection) or by Rick Vetter (UC Riverside Department of Entomology), you can be assured it is correct. 

As a local resource, you can also check out the Facebook Bug Group (Bugs of the San Juan Islands).  There are several group “experts” with experience identifying spiders.  These folks generously volunteer their time and knowledge, so keep that in mind and please refrain if you feel inclined to INSIST they are wrong and there are INDEED Brown Recluse Spiders living in your house in San Juan County.  If you have a spider you’d like identified, it helps to have a couple of clear photos to submit.  Try and get a shot of the dorsal (top) of the spider, and if you’re able, one of its face – showing eye pattern.   You may contact me, Cynthia Brast-Bormann at cynthiabrast@icloud.com to submit live or deceased specimens for identification.  I will help you coordinate a drop off point for collection.  Please don’t indiscriminately KILL a spider though and ask me to ID it.  It will likely make reliable identification more difficult.  Just get a cup and a lid with some air holes punched in the top.  I appreciate your showing kindness to the helpless creature you’ve caught.  I will ID and humanely release.  

Here’s a link to Rod Crawford’s site – http://staff.washington.edu/tiso/

If you’re interested, here’s a link to his blogpost of our 2022 outing on San Juan at Reuben Tarte Park collecting spiders – https://crawford.tardigrade.net/journal/album8630.html

More great links featuring Rod Crawford

  1. Spiders aren’t out to get you – https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/science/seattles-real-spider-man-sets-us-straight-theyre-not-out-to-get-you/

Rick Vetter UCR  

Myth of the Brown Recluse: Fact, Fear, and Loathing

https://spiders.ucr.edu/myth-brown-recluse-fact-fear-and-loathing

Local help: 

Bugs of the San Juan Islands Facebook Group – There are at least 4 spider group experts and folks with entomology degrees or experienced backgrounds in the group who are more than qualified to help you.  https://m.facebook.com/groups/bugsofthesanjuanislands/about/

Bugging You from San Juan Island (Cynthia Brast-Bormann’s entomology blog for the San Juan Islands)  https://buggingyoufromsanjuanisland.com

Great YouTube information and fun links to watch from one of Bugs of the San Juan Island’s group experts, Arlo Pelegrin (entomologist and arachnologist) 

  1. Spiders of the West and their Medical Significance – Arlo Pelegrin at Dept of Health

September Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 8 Araneus diadematus, the Cross Orb weaver

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!

Female Cross Orb Weaver, Araneus diadematus 09.07.2020

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.

Female Cross Orb Weaver, Araneus diadematus 09.07.2020

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.

March 29, 2013, Photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann

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.

Male A. diadematus

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!

June 13, 2013 – San Juan Island “Orb-Weaver Spiderlings”

I found this interesting poem online about Orb Weavers that I’ll leave you with today. Thanks for stopping by!

Araneus diadematus

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

Wherever.

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

The trembling.

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

Taking.

At night we eat the orb, conserve

The silk, to spin again by morning,

Indelicately, cramming all

Into open mouths, every spoke

Consuming.

We spin the globes of nurture

After mating, span them so,

With loving claws, adore the

Minor worlds we make, compass

Turning.

Entwined in silk, their spinnerets

Are forming, massed bundles

Of eyes, and legs, and fangs

Entangling. Each of us

Expiring.

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.

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’

September Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans

Today is officially the first day of September Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans. I’m excited about seeing those “spidee” photos and learning together about some of the very cool things that spiders do. We’re also going to conquer any FEARS of spiders and to start off, I’m going to post a link so you can discover Lucas the Spider. If you don’t know about Lucas, he is the cutest spider in the world, AND he wants to be your friend. *Kid and Adult Friendly!

Check out the event on Facebook at https://fb.me/e/1HRI2PNFw