Here come the grooms

This morning, we were gathering Parasteatoda around the house, and I guess that it’s that time of year, because we found lots of active males cruising around. We got four males right here! I just brought them in to the lab to join the lonely, love-starved females there. I’ll check back again in a few days and hope I don’t find that they were hungry for something else, leaving drained corpses everywhere.

I put a few photos of these handsomely endowed males (really, their palps are huge) on Instagram and Patreon.

2020 AAS Virtual Summer Symposium

Oh, happy news: the American Arachnology Society meetings were cancelled this summer, but they’re going ahead with the 2020 AAS Virtual Summer Symposium on 25-29 June. I can gladly do that! I’m an expert at sitting on my butt in my office staring at a screen!

It’s free if you happen to be a member of the AAS. Non-members can attend for the cost of a $10 donation to the American Arachnological Society.

The Mystery of the Old Gazebo

The other daaaay, we’d gone walking around the Pomme de Terre river, and just off the bike trail there is an old gazebo. It’s weathered, lichen-covered, and a bit creaky, but it’s also covered with spectacular orb webs, so we were curious to find out who was living there.

We poked around, and a couple of spiders scurried out, but I was baffled…the ones we caught didn’t look like orb weavers, they seemed to be Theridion, or social cobweb spiders. I guess they’re just lurking, taking advantage of any small prey caught in another spider’s web. The actual weavers of those webs couldn’t be found anywhere. I suspect the reason for that is that smack in the middle of the gazebo is a swallow’s nest, so any reasonably large spider is going to hide during the day an only emerge at night.

We’re tempted to revisit at night, except that another feature of the gazebo is all the hearts and INITIALS+INITIALS carved into the wood. We might interrupt more mammalian activity.

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Yeah, but was it a radioactive spider?

Three boys in Bolivia found a black widow spider.

“Thinking it would give them superhero powers, they prodded it with a stick until it bit each of them in turn,” the official, Virgilio Pietro, said.

The boy’s mom found them crying, so she rushed the siblings to a nearby health center, which transferred them to a nearby hospital, Telemundo said.

They’re fine now. They did not turn into spider-boys.

Note that they had to torture the spider to get it to bite them in the first place. Don’t do that. Don’t blame the spider. The spider knows that with great venom comes great responsibility, and that boys taste yucky.

Back to the spider grind

I took a tour of my house this morning to see how the spiders were shaping up. I found lots, even more than I did last week. Some were familiar, like Attulus fasciger, who had captured a mosquito-like creature. Good work, young lady!

Of course there were lots of Salticus scenicus around.

The exciting but somewhat disappointing discovery was that Parasteatoda abounded — they’d colonized several inset corners of the house and areas around the downspouts, where they had good cover and great places to hide.

The disappointing part was my own failure: I couldn’t get a good picture of any of them! They were all living in little houses made of plant debris, and if I tapped on them to ask them to come out, they did a typical Parasteatoda thing: they’d immediately bungee straight down to the ground. They’re conveniently predictable when trying to catch them, but I just wanted to say hello and take a picture.
To see what I mean about the difficulty, I saved one photo of one tucked into a bit of dried flower petal, with just her blurry butt sticking out.

I’ve got 4 of these spider nests tagged now, and I’ll be back tomorrow and will try to get some better pictures. Except I think we’ve got thunderstorms predicted for Sunday…so maybe a little later.

You can see the photos, if you really want to, on Patreon or Instagram, as usual.

Classic orb

A reader sent this in — I’m envious. I’ve been eyeing various likely sites for webs, haven’t seen any of the orb webs yet. I’m in the land of cobwebs and jumping spiders right now, and haven’t had much of an opportunity to get out and explore yet.

Soon, though. I’ll be fetching my wife in about two weeks, and then it’s a summer of visiting lonely empty places with lots of spiders. Romantic!

I only find out now about this?

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and no one ever told me about the Pacific folding trap-door spider. I sure never saw one. But this lucky woman out walking her dog saw one on the sidewalk and — oh what a waste — ran away.

Experts say the spider she spotted is a Pacific folding trap-door spider. It’s not a tarantula, but it is a “tarantuloid” – a related type of arachnid – according to Jaymie Chudiak, general manager of the Victoria Bug Zoo.

“It is the closest thing we have to a tarantula,” Chudiak said. “They are incredibly beautiful, but also very large, so people who do see them go, ‘Oh my gosh, what is that? It’s enormous.’ But they’re actually extremely docile and timid.”

If you want, there’s a picture at the link. It’s beautiful.

I also learned this.

Like tarantulas, there is a commercial market that sells Folding Trapdoor Spiders. Many species in this genus are brown or dark brown. The black, native Pacific Folding Door Trapdoor Spider is commonly sold in the Pacific Northwest as a pet.

“Commonly”? “Commonly”? It is true. I wasted my youth, because I never saw one. Now I want to.