Why does Santa come down the chimney?

To look for spiders, of course. Mary and I were getting into the spirit of the season and were surveying the area for spiders this morning. We were heartened by the fact that she discovered a salticid in our house — I’d given up on looking, assuming that no self-respecting spider would be out and about in late December in Minnesota, but there it was. So we donned our headgear and started scrutinizing window frames and dusty corners, and we also trooped over to the science building on campus and checked out the hallways and the basement.

Mary caught me in dynamic action pose, staring at cobwebs.

Unfortunately, the spider population was sparse or in deep hiding. We found another salticid in my office, and the husks of a few dead pholcids (lots of pholcids thriving in our basement, though), but no Theridiidae. There were also a few abandoned funnel webs outside. One problem is that the university custodial staff do a really thorough job of demolishing cobwebs and making an inhospitable environment for spiders…and I don’t think there are very many insects to eat there, except maybe in relatively unreachable places, like crawlspaces.

It’s also cold outside. I’ll be interested to see how the population changes in the Spring.


  1. Holms says

    I’ll be interested to see how the population changes in the Spring.

    The word ‘explosion’ comes to mind.

  2. chigau (違う) says

    I just found a tiny spider behind the toilet in the basement.
    (I stopped the vacuum before I got her.)
    What to basement spiders eat?

  3. janiceclanfield says

    My God! That picture is terrifying! He should be at the shelter with the rest of the men who need a good meal.
    (;>) or something like that. Damn emoticons.

  4. sparks says

    “What do basement spiders eat? Basement insects, of course.”

    Unless they’ve been given nutrient formula #347 which contains an unnamed radio isotope. In which case, they eat….


  5. chigau (違う) says

    Are you saying there are insects in my basement?
    What’s next? Beetles in the forty-year-old wall-to-wall carpet?

  6. jacksprocket says

    All spiders live primarily on the intense waves of pure fear and horror radiated by us arachnophobes. Insects are just a snack. Perhaps your absence of terror is why you are having a bit of difficulty breeding them.

  7. ike says

    I had a spider living in the corner of my sauna for months. No idea what it ate to survive there, but I guess there could be worse places to stay to survive the winter. Unfortunately, in cleaning the sauna for Christmas, I had to destroy its cobwebs. Hopefully it’ll find another place to spin them.

  8. davidc1 says

    A conversation sometime in the new year .
    University HR person
    “Ah Dr Myers ,please sit down ”
    Dr Myers
    “You wanted to see me ”
    “Yes ,er it seems you were seen wandering the corridors of the science building on xmas eve looking at the window frames?”
    Dr Myers
    “Yes ,is there a problem”
    HR ,noting something on a notepad .
    “For what reason?”
    Dr Myers
    “I was looking for spiders ”
    “Any reason for that ”
    Dr Myers
    “I could not find any in my house ”
    HR writing on notepad
    “I mean why spiders ?”
    Dr Myers
    “I am doing research ”
    “I see ,thank you for your time Dr Myers ,good morning ”
    Merry xmas Doc .

  9. jrkrideau says

    @ 13 davidc1
    Clearly you have not been on a university campus recently. Dr. Myer’s behaviour would be so nomal as to be unremarked. Just tossed off with the remark, “Oh, he’s a biologist’ would do if anyone did notice him prowling the corridors of the religious studies building.

    I have yet to figure out why my local university has as rope walking initiative every spring but ever year about May there is someone trying to learn how to walk a rope. Roughly one metre above the ground.

    (Note: Canadian University teaching schedules end in April)

  10. Jazzlet says

    The house I lived in before this one had stone walls about 45cm deep, constructed of two skins of stone packed with rubble. We had a lot of spiders, I suspect because of the population of woodlice living in the walls. We would find woodlice everywhere, not many, but it wasn’t unusual to see a woodlouse wandering up the wall of any room, including the first floor (second floor in American English) bedrooms. So PZ I think you are living in the wrong kind of house, find yourself a building with deep stone walls that provide a good home to both woodlice and spiders.

  11. DrewN says

    A bit of reverse psychology is obviously needed. You want to call a pest control expert about dealing with a “spider infestation” then, do the opposite of everything you’re told. In no time you’ll end up with a perfect spider haven to collect your arachnid army from!

  12. davidc1 says

    @13 Hi ,i went to Toothickfor University .My shame is that i am a drop out from the Open University over here in GB .
    I am deeply jealous of those of you who were intelligent enough to have and finish an higher education .

  13. jrkrideau says

    . One problem is that the university custodial staff do a really thorough job

    As a grad student, I once sent an a letter to the Director of Physical Plant praising the custodial staff for their outstanding performance. Your custodial staff deserve praise for the superb job they do.

    You might want to consult with them about spiders. I am sure some of them would be interested in advancing science.

  14. twarren1111 says

    That is such a hilarious picture.

    You look like a homeless conspiracy theorist!

    Thank you Dr Myers for my best Christmas Eve laugh!

    And please tell your spouse thank you!