13

I only got 13 live babies out of that one hatching, which is sad and pathetic. I’m clearly going to have to go on an Egg Sac Hunt this weekend to get more.

I describe this feeble output on Patreon, with photos of the unproductive wreck of an egg sac. I’ve also put a picture of one of the healthy offspring on Instagram. And, oh yeah, on Discord. Why aren’t you on our Discord server? It’s free!

Dragging myself into the last day of the conference

It’s the last day of the American Arachnology Society meeting. Have you ever experienced this? You’re simultaneously looking forward to many of the talks, but you’re also really looking forward to ending the deluge of information and getting back to normal? Yeah, brain overload is terrible. But at least with a virtual conference I don’t have to pack up and get on a plane and drive for half a day, and I won’t lose a few more days to con crud.

Also, now this morning I have to find time to sort babies into vials. That’s my agenda: glue eyes to microscope and delicately shoo baby spiders into new containers, then rush back to glue my eyes to a computer screen to attend to a couple of hours of webs and venom (the subjects of the first two blocks of talks today.)

I’m no longer preggers — I’m a papa!

Remember when I said I was preggers, and that I had a little transparent container on my desk I was watching? Yesterday I had noticed that the mama spider was rather agitated, and was fussing about with her egg sac, and I was getting worried that something was going wrong. I shouldn’t have worried! This afternoon while I was watching the AAS talks, I noticed some new tiny little dots near the sac — the babies have emerged! They are very cute. You’ll have to check them out on Instagram!

What you’re missing today

The Tuesday schedule from the American Arachnology Society meeting:

I’m really looking forward to the plenary, and I know there will be lots of good stuff in the contributed talks, but boy, those were fatiguing yesterday. Also one session did not keep very good time, went way overlong, and rode right over the one break. Hey, coordinators, it’s really important to keep everything on time, otherwise when am I going to get to void all the coffee I was drinking through the meeting?

Also, the informal evening sessions are useful for us amateurs. I’m planning to sit in on the spider husbandry happy hour.

I’m preggers!

As you can see from my desktop — my real desktop, not the virtual one on my computer screen.

Don’t be distracted by my dirty keyboard (I’ve had it for about 15 years). What’s important is that cube with the rainbow reflection on it, which contains a Parasteatoda mama and her egg sac. I’ve got it front and center so I can keep a constant eye on it — I want to catch the babies the instant they emerge, and I’ve got my camera at the ready right next to me.

Here’s my gender reveal party: it’s going to be a boy! And a boy! And a girl! And another boy, and a girl, and a girl, girl, boy, girl, boy, boy, girl, girl, girl, boy, girl, boy, boy, girl…etc. I won’t need any fireworks because when that thing pops there will be a cloud of baby spiders all ballooning outwards, and if I opened it at the wrong time I could fill my office with spiders drifting everywhere. That would be delightful, but instead I’ll be trying to capture them all individually and put them in vials to provide more troops for my spider army.

I’m hoping they don’t emerge until after Wednesday, because I’m deep into this conference for a while. From past experience, though, babies are always picking the most inconvenient time…

Proper decorum when spotting a spider during an arachnology meeting

There’s a major added benefit to attending a virtual conference. I’ll be spending the next 5 days ‘attending’ the American Arachnological Society meeting, which really means sitting in my home office listening to voices over my headphones with images of data about spiders on my computer screen, and the advantage is that I can be distracted without disrupting the event. Last night I was tuned into Maydianne Andrade’s excellent talk about widows and sex variation, and this critter was scampering over the windowsill.

[Sorry, you know the drill: the photo is on Instagram or Patreon]

So I got up, grabbed a collecting vial, scooped it up, and snapped a couple of photos right in the middle of her talk. There were about 180 arachnologists listening to it online; imagine if they each spotted a spider during a meeting, and felt no restraint about indulging their passion right then and there. Chaos! The entire audience would be on their hands & knees, or climbing the walls!

It would be great!

Maybe not as productive information-wise, though.

Also, there was a tiny theridiid spinning a web on my microphone stand. I got it, too, but it’s so small I think I’ll need to bring it into the lab to look at it with the microscope.