Spider Update: Cleaning day (no photos)

I’ve concluded that I’ve been a terrible spider daddy. What else can you say when your young spiderlings have a 90% mortality rate? I expect ICE to pound on my door any day now and give me an offer of employment at one of their detention centers.

In my defense, I am learning. My big mistake was hoping that I could keep a freshly-hatched clutch of spiderlings together for a fairly long period of time, to minimize the maintenance chores. Nope. Doesn’t work. I even did some quick experiments where I’d put small groups of 3 in vials of different volumes, so different population densities, and it didn’t help. After a while, there would be only one.

I don’t know whether it was simply that one would hog all the food, starving the others, or whether it was outright siblicide, but lesson learned: the babies get separated, day one. I just have to get a new egg sac first. Unfortunately, all I’ve got now are 3 full grown adults, and they’re all females (it’s their own damn fault, too, since they ate their husbands).

Today was cleaning day and sorting out all the juveniles. At this point, I have a grand total of…11 young’uns. They all look healthy and I don’t expect serious mortality issues from this point on. About a quarter of them are male (you will say, “what’s 25% of 11?”, and I will reply that one of them is ambiguously sexed at this point, with palps that aren’t quite fully developed), but I can’t use them to breed with the adult females, yet. It’s not a worry about incest, but just that they’re roughly 1/4 to 1/2 the size of the adult behemoths, and they’re too preciously few to risk turning them into snacks.

Speaking of incest, 82% of the juveniles are children of the dearly departed Gwyneth, so there goes genetic diversity already. That may not be a bad thing, given that Gwyneth was an uber-fertile monster queen, and a little inbreeding to reduce genetic diversity is useful in a lab model. I’m also planning to do some collecting trips this Spring, to get individuals who didn’t all come from one house on one corner of one block in Morris, Minnesota.

Anyway, right now they’re all tucked into fresh new clean vials, given a little spritz of water vapor, and a couple of hapless fruit flies each. They just need to grow now. Also, I have a sink full of dirty vials to wash out tomorrow. Spider poop, yuck.

Hey, maybe tomorrow I should take some pictures of spider poop — I suspect most of you haven’t seen it.


  1. davidc1 says

    Spider poop ,yes i have seen it on the models i have made that are in my shed .
    Off white round blobs with a blackish center .

  2. says

    Right, just like birds, they secrete uric acid.

    From this, we can deduce that birds are just feathered spiders that have lost a few legs.

  3. komarov says

    From this, we can deduce that birds are just feathered spiders that have lost a few legs.

    Maybe spiders are featherless birds that got tired of having to snatch their prey in flight? Or maybe they just wanted to be able to make their nest materials themselves.

    Hey, maybe tomorrow I should take some pictures of spider poop — I suspect most of you haven’t seen it.

    You really know how to draw a crowd.

  4. Sean Boyd says

    OT, but ICE (well, a civilian contractor working for them) has been advertising for “Immigration Psychologists” and other stupidly-named positions to work at the detention center concentration camp at the Port of Tacoma. Uggh.

    On the plus side, you made a Highlander reference! Given that I’ve had the movie’s soundtrack stuck in my head these past few days, I barely even noticed you writing about spiders.

    It cannot be easy moving newly hatched spiderlings, given their size.

  5. Kevin Karplus says

    Spider poop is quite destructive of shellac floor finishes, though not as bad as cat urine. We get quite a bit of spider poop under the gas wall heater in the book room—the heater is only used in winter, and spiders apparently love it the rest of the year.

  6. says

    It’s not too bad moving spiderlings. I use a fine brush, and try to snag their dragline, then lift and lower them into a new vial.

    The hard part is separating a mob of spiderlings all clinging to the same splat of webbing.

  7. rinn says

    Do you think that the 90% mortality rate corresponds with spider mortality rates in the wild? I would have expected that spiders living pampered in your vials actually biases the mortality rate downwards.

  8. Doubting Thomas says

    Interesting spider factoid. Around here on the Cumberland Plateau we fly hang gliders and paragliders. A typical flight is an hour of soaring in thermal lift often gaining thousands of feet above the take off point. In late Summer, it seems we aren’t alone riding the thermals. In addition to the usual crop of raptors are the spiders. We often see our flying wires and lines streaming with spider silk after a long high flight. Thankfully the spiders don’t hang around.

  9. Doubting Thomas says

    Spider poop and insect husks tend to accumulate under night lights and anywhere they set up housekeeping.