Too many eyes and legs!
We have a new expedition up on SPIDERS just in time for Halloween. Spiders often get a bad rap. They are seen as scary and creepy, especially around Halloween when people decorate their houses and shrubs with fake webs and giant black widows. But spend a few minutes watching them and you will realize spiders are some of the most fascinating and talented animals in your neighborhood. The most conspicuous spiders are the orb weavers that spin webs of concentric circles, like in Charlotte’s Web – though don’t expect to see any advertisements written in these webs. Many of these spiders eat their webs each day, recycling the materials, and rebuild them for the next night’s catch, which they skillfully wrap in silk to snack on later.
picture credit San Diego Zoo
Many spider species do not build webs at all. Jumping spiders and wolf spiders are active, visual predators with two, large, forward-facing eyes, to go with their lateral eyes. They capture their prey by pouncing on them. Jumping spiders in particular are very inquisitive and often will investigate objects you set in front of them. Many are brightly colored and have very elaborate courtship displays in which they wave their front legs and thump their abdomens (try a search for “peacock spiders”).
picture credit Susan Kennedy
Spiders also are unfairly accused of bites and crawling into people’s mouths at night. It is not clear where these urban myths came from, but there is no evidence that spiders infiltrate us while we slumber. As far as bites, it is extremely rare that someone actually finds the suspected spider on, or anywhere near them after a bite. Unless a spider feels trapped with no recourse, it very rarely bites. Even when left with the choice of fighting back or losing a leg, many will choose to lose a leg and run away on seven.
So why the bad rap? Probably because we walk into their sticky webs and find them lurking in the corners of our buildings. And also because they look so incredibly different from us with too many legs and too many eyes.
Finally, thanks for your help with our newest CalBug expedition, although maybe in this case we should call it SpiderCal or ArachniCal for this one instead?
Peter Oboyski, with slight embellishment by Rob Guralnick