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.
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.
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.
Today is 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!
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!
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!