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Web Slingers

October 18, 2010

The prevailing sentiment seems to be that the only good spider is a dead spider. With over 40,000 species worldwide, that’s a large group of animals to drop the shoe on. Some people have expressed that it’s ok to have some spiders around but they just don’t want them in their house. Others go so far as to not want any of them anywhere near their home. For many people every spider is misidentified as a life-threatening Black Widow or a Brown Recluse.

The truth is spiders are around us everyday whether we see them or not and most of them serve a vital role in the diversity of habitats in which they are found. While it’s important to protect yourself from the extremely rare danger of a venomous spider bite, it’s also beneficial to offer restraint and tolerance towards those species that are not only harmless to humans but potentially valuable pest predators. Not to mention they come in a wild variety of colors, shapes and sizes and exhibit some amazing behaviors.

The Golden Silk Orbweaver (Nephila clavipes) (top left) is a beautiful species that spins incredible golden webs. They feed on grasshoppers, flies and other flying insects. Hairy “legwarmers” allow them to easily traverse their webs. A stunning, horror movie, skull-like cephalothorax (essentially the head and thorax) with black eye-like spots tricks would be predators into believing the spider can see in every direction.

The Spiny Orbweaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis) (bottom right) with its crab-like carapace, spins a web in gardens and around homes where it feasts on flies, beetles and moths.

While not dangerous, I usually escort the Daring Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) (bottom left) back outside where it can return to feasting at the lawn buffet and practice its standing long jump. (They can jump over 50x their body length). This one wanted back in.

Even the notorious Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) (not pictured) eats its fair share of household pests like silverfish and cockroaches, but I wouldn’t put a welcome mat out for it.

Although spiders are unfortunately considered terrifying to most, when they are understood on an individual species basis they can be quite enjoyable to live with and near.

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