Humans are good for something

Winter is a tough time to be an arachnophile, especially in the Great White North. It’s even tougher to be a spider. They’re mostly gone from outdoors — I’ve been looking, and everything is frozen and windy, the bugs are all dead, and it’s no place for an arachnid.

They do have some places to thrive, though: in your house. We people at least provide refugia for a few species, like the theridiidids I’ve been following. My wife, who has the eyes of an eagle, found this tiny little guy in our kitchen and scooped him up. He’s a juvenile so it’s hard to tell, but the palps look swollen and he’ll probably be ready to mate after his next molt.

The photo isn’t the best. A) he’s very smol, b) I’m shooting through plastic, c) he’s dangling on a single slender thread spanning the tube, and is practically vibrating, and d) he’s very excited because I fed him a fly, and he’s fangs-deep in that juicy fresh beast.

He’s Parasteatoda, and has a spectacularly stark pattern of angular pigments on his abdomen (not adequately shown). Once he has settled down and is nestled in a comfortable web — it takes a few days for them to build a cozy nest — I’ll have to get some better shots.

At least when people ask where spiders go in the winter, I have an answer. They go to my house.


  1. Artor says

    We had frost last night, but the friendly neighborhood thumb-fat orb weaver is still there in my window.

  2. christoph says

    I hate to admit this, but I can’t tell the difference between a parasteatoda and a steatoda triangulosa. They look pretty much the same. How do you tell them apart?

  3. says

    S. triangulosa has a distinctive zig-zag stripe laterally along the abdomen, which is seen as a series of white triangles or diamond shapes from above.

    Parasteatoda has a complex and variable pattern of mottling.

    You look at them enough, and the differences leap out at you.

  4. sherylyoung says

    Where do you get flies in the winter? I know where to get crickets, I know where to get meal worms. I know where to get bison bones! Where do you get flies?