The Spider Blog

Posted: May 8, 2010 in nature, texas

Guru – An intellectual or spiritual guide or leader.

As a child, my father taught me that “spiders are good because they eat bugs that we don’t like.” It was a lesson that stuck with me along with most of the other adages and philosophies my father would give. In a benevolent all knowing way, my father would say, “Don’t be scared of spiders… if there were no spiders the world would be full of ants and flies.”

Don’t get me wrong, even though my dad seemed to know it all, he was not boastful. Sometimes I would question his lessons, but only out of my own fear. For instance, a few childhood friends and I were playing in my backyard when we noticed a menacing looking nest of wasps on the corner of my house. A few shrieks later we were all inside staring pitifully out the window.

Upon hearing our situation my dad proclaimed, “Don’t be afraid girls!  The wasps can sense your fear… just act like they are not there and go play!”

When we didn’t budge from our perches on the windowsill, my dad said, “Watch me. I’ll show you.”

We all seemed to hold our breath as my dad slid open the back door and walked around the corner of our house into our view from the window. Within seconds, a wasp dive-bombed him and we saw his hand fly up to his neck as he cried out.  I can’t really remember if I was smiling when he walked back inside to ‘re-examine’ the situation…

Now that I’m older I have a considerable respect for all the creatures my father taught me not to be afraid of, and also for the creatures that proved him wrong.  The point is, the more knowledge you collect about your surroundings the more enriched your life will be!

I think spiders are so fascinating!  Most spiders you encounter are NOT poisonous.  So try to determine what kind it is before you smear it into oblivion.  Don’t be scared, spiders are good!  Spiders consume more insects than all other insect eating predators combined!  And if you must have fear, learn what kind of spiders you should really be afraid of.  There are roughly 900 species of spiders in Texas alone!

Cardinal rule of a spider bite: COLLECT THE SPIDER THAT HAS BITTEN YOU, do not discard it!  This is important for identification, anti-venon if neccessary, and also to determine the age, sex, and species for further research and statistics.  Most supposed spider bites in the United States are actually from other conditions, ie: other insects or staph infections.

Latrodectus hesperus: Western Black Widow
These spiders have shiny black bodies with a red hour glass on the underside of the abdomen. The hour glass on immature widows may be orange to white in color, and males may are much smaller with a few red to orange spots on their back. Immature widows have light colored stripes on the back of the abdomen. Female black widows are usually the culprit of a bite even though some may not even be able to break the skin. A black widows bite will cause pain and swelling and shortly thereafter 70% of those bitten experience nausea, difficulty breathing, light sensitivity, diarrhea, muscle spasms and aches comparable to ovarian cyst rupture or appendicitis. All children, pregnant woman and individuals with hypertension should be taken to the hospital immediately.

Even though these little poisonous beasts look scary… they are VERY shy of people.  Preferring to make webs in low activity areas, like sheds or garage corners.  And they mostly hide close by the web during the day and sit stationary in their webs with the abdomen up warning any predators of their poison with the red hour glass when hunting.  When approached they will hide.  I found 18 in our rent house while waiting for our new house to be built… and then 3 more at our new house after the move.  Imagine my surprise when we were doing our walk around and I saw a Black Widow staring at me on the back porch… before we even moved in!  21 widows, 0 bites… and I even found one in the mailbox. 🙂

Loxosceles reclusa: Brown Recluse
You are much more likely to encounter a Brown Recluse in your home than a Black Widow (which prefer to remain outside.)  Brown Recluse spiders can be identified by a dark brown violin shape on the top of their head with the neck of the violon pointing towards the rear of the spider. The body of the spider is a brown to light tan or grey color.  These spiders are mobile hunters.  You are most likely to be bitten by a recluse when it has become tangled in clothes or a towel, sleeping in bed, or accidentally pressing against the spider.  They prefer dark secluded areas, but become active at night.  Recluse spiders make irregular webs in wood piles, closets, dressers, cardboard boxes, unused beds, bed sheets, and other areas with low activity.  The bite of a Brown Recluse is only sometimes necrotic, meaning severe systemic tissue death can occur around the bite and spread.   The bite may take months to heal and leave deep scarring.  Many times Staph infections are mistaken for Recluse bites. 

Tegenaria agrestis: Hobo Spider
Studies show that these agressive little house spiders may have a necrotic bite that rivals the Brown Recluse.  In fact many Hobo spider bites may actually be blames on the Brown Recluse… that is one of the reasons it is important to collect the spider that has bitten you.

That’s all… and the rest, you should not ever kill, because I will like you less if you do.

The only spider bite I’ve ever recieved that I can honestly blame on a spider, and keep in mind that I have handled many in my day, was a jumping spider.  Generally harmless, I had the misfortune of catching a half-drown Phiddipus on my forearm at a waterpark.  I felt the bite and looked down expecting to see a bee… but to my surprise there was a big ol’ jumping spider. I brushed him off and stared at the bite in disbelief.  It swellwed up to about quarter size with one small puncture mark in the middle… and did not go away for 2 and 1/2 weeks.  It oozed, it throbbed, it scabbed over, then oozed more.  It wasn’t pretty.  That was two summers ago, and all that’s left is a tiny white scar the size of a pin-head.  And I’ll tell you, I have no more fear of jumping spiders than I did before… they are still one of my favorite spiders of all, with the likes of the Wolf Spider and Orb Weavers.  I especially like the way jumping spiders turn to look at you after they start to pounce away.  As if they are scared, but still curious. So cute! 

Some of the spiders I’ve captured with the cam:

A tee-tiny Phiddipus sp.

Phiddipus mystaceus  – I remember this little cuties name because mystaceus reminds me of mustache… and as you can see, this little guy looks pretty wooly-booly

Western Orb Weaver

Black Widow and Frog

Widow and Eggsack

Black Widow (ventral view) notice the tell-tale red hour glass

  1. Sarah Schoolcraft says:

    I finally found someone who loves spiders as much as I do!!! I was starting to think that I was weird!!!

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