For our spiderwalk this morning, Mary and I strolled down the street to the Morris Area Elementary School. I had low expectations because, well, children. Those expectations were confirmed. Very few spiders were observed, and we had to squirm into awkward places to find most of them.
One confounding variable is that MAES is a relatively new building built of brick. To a spider, those vast featureless walls are a barren desert with few places to get shelter. Window frames were better; we saw lots of spider webs, but they were mostly frail, fragile things, as if someone had recently scrubbed the place. The only spiders we saw were on the outside of a couple of metal sheds that had been put up, apparently to support some recent construction going on.
What few spiders we did find were Steatoda borealis, which is interesting. Most of our survey work has been on the interiors of sheds and garages, which are dominated by Parasteatoda and Pholcus, while when I scan external surfaces, I’m finding many more S. borealis. They’re somewhat larger (although not today — everyone was on the small side, perhaps because the children have been harvesting the meatiest specimens) and maybe hardier. We’ll keep looking.
Sorry, we interrupted this lady at breakfast.
We also found one lonely Theridion.
I’m going to take this as tentative support for my hypothesis that children are scavenging spiders from places they frequent. Clearly, though, this needs experimental confirmation, and to our great good luck our granddaughter is coming to visit in a few weeks, so I’ll be able to directly address how small children respond when offered a nice juicy spider.
Don’t tell Skatje and Kyle.