Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spiders for Your Halloween Shivers

I was taking a turn on the boys' slack line a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed something large and gray and furry hanging out under the webbing. My first reaction was full-body shudders, but my second was to grab the camera, because how often do you see a spider the size of a cherry tomato?

I decided to take the opportunity to learn more about spiders (with help from this article) and go through my photo archives in search of more spider pictures (because apparently that's a thing I do).

I took this picture (above)in our bathroom a few days ago (using my phone and the cool little phone macro I got C for his birthday). It's of a cellar spider--the type of spiders that make grungy old cobwebs. They like to hang out in the corners of houses and eat whatever happens along and gets caught in their messy and non-sticky webs. They are not to be confused with daddy longlegs, which, though arachnids are not spiders, and have only a single body segment (and, contrary to urban legend, do not have venomous bites). We had a daddy longlegs on our bathroom ceiling one night, and by the next morning, it was caught in a web and this guy was dining happily on it.

Look closely at the opening in the web above and you'll see a little grass spider, a type of funnel weaver whose webs you never notice until a dewy summer morning when they appear all over lawns. These spiders hang out at the mouths of their funnels and when the web is disturbed, they either run our and snatch their prey or scurry back inside their funnels to wait for an intruder to pass on.

When you think of the classic Halloween spider web, you're thinking of the web woven by an orb weaver spider. My little (big) furry friend in the first picture is an orb weaver (possibly spotted or cross).

More commonly seen, though are these black and yellow argiope, who hand out during the day and weave a zig-zag shape, or stabilimentum, in the center of their webs.

I've always known these as "garden" spiders and if you find one near your garden, you're in luck, because they will help control and pests that might come along to try and eat your produce.

I'm guessing Charlotte was an agriope.

If any spider can be considered "beautiful" by human standards, it is the argiope, and perhaps the next spider on our tour, the goldenrod crab spider, which hangs out on yellow or white flowers and can change its color to match its home.

I'm not exactly phobic of spiders and I try not to kill them (thanks to this book, which was a childhood staple, but which I have inexplicably never gotten ahold of for my own children), but I don't love them running around my house and I try to evict them to the outdoors when I find them (which, in January amounts to a death sentence, I suppose). The worst was when Z and E were playing blocks when they were about three and I came into the living room and saw Z watching a big brown spider (I think it was some type of nursery web spider) crawl up his arm, over his shoulder and down his other arm. "Let's take that spider outside," I said, taking his wrist and tugging him toward the front door. "He my pet," Z replied as I hustled him to the front step and brushed the spider off. I still get the shivers picturing that spider scuttle all over my baby. I know it's aesthetic and irrational, since the colorful and pretty spiders don't make my skin crawl at all. I'm working on it, but since today's Halloween, the shivers is a perfectly reasonable reaction.


  1. Great post!
    Love the story of the arm crawling spider.
    I have a similar one but Fionna had actually picked the spider up and put it in her bucket. To her surprise it crawled out, right up her leg into her hair! Gah!
    Thanks so much for sharing this on the Mud Puddles Group!

  2. Eek, hair! Definitely a creature a prefer admiring from a distance.


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