Madame Mervin, Hammer of Sues (das_mervin) wrote,
Madame Mervin, Hammer of Sues
das_mervin

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Spiders: An Eight-Legged Picspam

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I am not an arachnophobe. In fact, I’m the opposite—I’m an arachnophile. I adore spiders and everything about them. I’ve loved them since I moved out into the country when I was three. So, when the non-fandom picspammy challenge came up, I figured I might do a picspam on some of my favorites!

Warnings: Just a heeby-jeeby warning.




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Being a native Okie, I figured I may as well start out with our Big Bad. This lovely lady, the Latrodectus hesperus (or western black widow), is more poisonous than a rattlesnake and twice as prolific. They do not build ordered webs, like an orb weaver. Instead, they build a chaotic tangle of very strong, thick, sticky threads. They tend to build the webs in dark, warm places, so never reach into a dark hole in Oklahoma. The black widow is so named because the females are particularly nasty when it comes to the infamous spider mating dance that inevitably ends in dinner for one. The offspring are mottled grey and brown, and are just as deadly as the adults. In terms of size, though, these ladies are actually pretty small—the biggest one I have seen was a little over an inch long.

Personal Experience: I was gardening without gloves one fine spring morning. Stupid, yes. We had a rock garden in one of our planters, and I was pulling all of the rocks out to rearrange it for this year’s flowers. I reached down to roll the biggest rock out of the dirt, and as it rolled up, so came all of this sticky webbing—and an inch away from my fingers, spiky, curled black legs. She was a doozy, and quite obviously had two husbands under her belt already. Unfortunately, from the time I was three, I was raised with a “Shoot On Sight” policy with them, and considering I’ve got three cats, I made short work of her. To be fair, I felt badly about doing it.



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Crab spiders—the Thomisidae family—are some of the cutest spiders in existence and some of the most wide-spread, available everywhere in the world except the Poles and Greenland. They are all almost universally tiny and bright. It seems that there is a species of crab spider specifically designed to reside in every type of flower on the planet. They can also take on prey much larger than themselves, their most popular targets being bees, moths, and butterflies. Their most distinctive features are their extra-long front legs and their “crab walk”—they always walk sideways across whatever surface they are on. They hunt not by building a web, but by cramming themselves deep into whatever flower or plant they are hiding in and waiting for the prey to come to the flower for the pollen. They are not poisonous to humans or pets and rarely bite.

Personal Experience: My front gardens are always chock-full of little crab spiders. I always look inside all of the flowers when they are blooming to see what kinds I’ll have this season. I also inevitably find them on top of my car—crab spiders, when they hatch, do not crawl away from their nest. They stick their little bottoms in the air and release a drag line, which the wind picks up. They are so tiny and light-weight, they go floating off and come to rest on any surface. They often find themselves landing on my car. In the summer when I lived out in the country, the air would be filled with silk threads, so thick that I once took a walk for thirty minutes outside and came back in looking like I’d been spun up in a silk cocoon.



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Garden spiders, Argiope aurantia, are also more commonly called the writing spiders. They were the inspiration for the spider in Charlotte’s Web. Their “writing” is actually a way for them to attract prey to their webs, which are large and stunningly neat and orderly. The spiders themselves can get quite big, up to two or three inches from tip to tip while sitting in their webs. A garden spider with a fat abdomen is obviously in search of a boyfriend—if you come across a large garden spider with a skinny abdomen, it means she’s found one (and has probably eaten him) and now has an egg sac hidden somewhere near her web. Garden spiders are very common, and not deadly to humans or most pets—although smaller pets may have problems with the bite, as it may cause swelling.

Personal Experience: We had a garden spider show up in our front bushes every summer for years. We would always name her Charlotte, and she would always grow to massive sizes because she had assistance with her dinner—my sister and I would inevitably try to cut down on the plague of grasshoppers that always descended into the tall grass and toss a few of them into her web. She was the fastest spinner in the West, I swear, and would have them knotted up and in storage within seconds. She would also give plenty of eggs—three egg sacs within a month, all stored up out of the rain and wind up by our window.



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Theridion grallator! Yes, that is real—they are exclusive to Hawaii and there are many, many different varieties. They are like the tigers of the spider kingdom—no spider has the exact same pattern, and it can even change, depending on what is being eaten at the time. The strange thing about all of the varieties of the Happy Face spider is that they are perfectly fine with interbreeding with one another. Even stranger, the markings seem to serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. They really only have one predator—birds—but are so small and reclusive they really aren’t a major source of prey for any animal. As far as venom is concerned, they are not poisonous to humans.

Personal Experience: As I’ve never been to Hawaii, I have no personal experience with this little fella. However, I will say that he never fails to brighten my day. He’s the happiest spider in existence.



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The family Salticidae has more than 500 genera and more than 5,000 species. This is a spider that you pretty much will never get away from—seeing as they have found them on Everest. They don’t build webs, and are probably the most active spiders in the animal kingdom. They actively hunt, stalk, and pounce on their prey, hence the name. What is fascinating about their jumping ability is that their legs are effectively hydraulic—their bodies alter the pressure of the fluid in the legs to give them their characteristic ability. They can jump a maximum of 80 times their body length, and can climb across virtually any terrain. They have some of the best vision in the spider kingdom. They are not venomous to humans.

Personal Experience: Oh, Lord—do I ever have personal experience with these little guys. Not a day goes that I don’t have experience with them in the spring and summer. I find these spiders charming and inquisitive, and they are some of the bravest spiders in existence—you poke at them and they will only hop backwards, but they won’t run. They are also incredibly passive, and I can only recall one incident where one bit anybody. I love these spiders, and adored playing with them. Watching them hunt is also an impressive experience—they are patient, deliberate, and move in an eyeblink. One moment, she was two inches away from the fly, and the next nanosecond, she had him.



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Nephila pilipes, the golden orb-web spider to be exact. These spiders are the biggest web-building spiders in the world. Their webs can be measured in feet, and can catch anything from insects to birds. (And if you don’t believe me? Think again.) The females are typically ten times larger than the males, who are so small they can sometimes skip the formalities of the mating dance and just sneak up on the female and mate with her. These spiders, despite their size, are not poisonous to humans, although the bite will hurt (obviously). They don’t usually bite, though, and prefer to sit quietly. Nephila’s tend to frequently abandon and rebuild webs, which might be their own form of pest control—nephila spiders are plagued by other tiny spiders that are small enough to sneak into the web unnoticed and feed on the nephila’s captured prey.

Personal Experience: Folks, that is a bigass spider. And you don’t need perspective to know that’s a bigass spider—that’s one of those spiders that you just look at the picture and know they’re bigass spiders. But, if you insist on more perspective than the picture of the bird, how about these two? Now, I don’t trek around in jungles enough to have personal experience with this one, but ever since I saw one of these in a National Geographic magazine, I have been fascinated and enamored of them. Nephila spiders are calm, gorgeous spiders, and I would love to see one in the wild some day—and pet it. I love to pet web-building spiders. Or ANY spider!



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Genus Gasteracantha, their abdomens may look like crab shells, but they are not related to crab spiders. These spiders are typically very small, and while the spiny protrusions all over their backs are their defining features, their bright colors should not go without praise. Their colors are as varied as their spines—from the tiny spines to long horns, they range from bright yellows to vivid reds to shocking blues.

Personal Experience: I fell in love with these when I was six years old. When I would hang out in my school’s paltry library, I would invariably go to all of the nature books. There was a book on spiders, and there was a prominent picture of a bright red spiny orb weaver. That was a constant presence in my life from then on out—I think these spiders are hilarious-looking and at the same time cute. And what a defense mechanism—it’s like eating a minesweeper game.



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Who doesn’t think of Theraphosidae when the word “spider” is mentioned? These spiders are probably the ones filmmakers immediately turn to when they need something large, creepy, and hairy to put on people to frighten an audience. Yes, they are frightening—however, the reason why filmmakers turn to them is because the majority are very calm and easily managed, hence the reason they are also highly prized pets. The above four pictures are, in order, the Mexican fireleg, the cobalt blue, the Brazilian black, and the skeleton tarantula. There are many other different species of tarantulas with equally beautiful markings and color patterns as well, and they can catch a fair price on the pet market. Wild tarantulas are entirely nomadic, only settling down when they have an egg sac to tend—and sometimes not even then. Some tarantulas carry their egg sacs with them. They hunt anything they can take down, from insects to other spiders to lizards to snakes to mice. In some countries, roasted tarantula and fried tarantula egg omelets are considered a delicacy. Contrary to popular belief due to their size and their painful bites (and the movies), they are not poisonous.

Personal Experience: I was given a tarantula by a friend when I was twelve. I’d call that personal experience, eh? I named her Ferdinand, but only kept her for a day—I knew I couldn’t keep her. I had no terrarium, for one, and for another, she was a wild animal. So I released her back into the wild near the junk pile on the edge of my property. However, every single summer, I would find her again, trooping diligently across the property from one side to the other—she had a funny little white patch on her back, so I always knew it was her. Sometimes I would walk with her until she vanished into the tall grass, and other times I would pick her up and play with her. I also once got into an argument with some classmates once who were trying to inform me—the Spider Girl, as they called me—that tarantulas WERE poisonous while I insisted most emphatically that they were not. Attempting to use “The bite hurts!” as an argument does not work, because have you seen a tarantula’s fangs? They’re almost an inch long! That’s like jamming a two-pronged fork into your arm! Of COURSE it’s gonna hurt! Tarantulas are probably my favorite of all the spiders in existence, especially that gorgeous cobalt blue up there. I dream of owning one, except I know I never will. They are A) fairly expensive, and B) highly aggressive.



I hope some of those pictures and bits of information have helped anyone who came in despite their fear of spiders and their tendency to give people the heeby-jeebies. Spiders are beautiful, helpful creatures, and without them, we would be swarming in much nastier creatures.

Not that I blame you, of course, for thinking them scary if you do. Because most of the time, we don’t see gorgeous spiders like those up there. Most of the time? We have to look at these guys.



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Trapdoor spiders live almost exclusively in burrows. They set out a complicated system of webbing all around their burrows, and then hide inside in the dark, waiting for insects to come near their openings. Once they do, they come flying out of the burrow and drag their prey inside, and their little doors shut behind them. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave, and all. Trapdoor spiders are also sometimes aggressive towards predators and humans, because they have large fangs and an excellent escape route, as is evidenced in the second photograph. So, yeah—if that scares you? I really can’t blame you.



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And I can’t blame you for this guy, either. I’m an arachnophile and even I’m creeped out by wolf spiders. Which is a shame, considering they are outrageously common, widespread, and basically in everything. I think pretty much everyone has personal experience with these ugly buggers. They can get up to two, three inches in diameter and where you find one, there is guaranteed to be more. I would often discover this by hosing down the grass next to the side of the house in summer and up they’d come, swarming up the bricks of my house. I also loved hunting for them after a big rainstorm—I’d just roll up my pants and go wading in the huge puddles in my ditches, and there they would be, floating silently on top of the water because they’d been flooded out of their burrows. Of course, there is one thing these spiders do that I absolutely cannot stand and have never been able to stand—these are the spiders that are the most matronly and motherly. In other words, they carry their egg sacs with them, and then they carry their babies with them. Yeah. Those are the ones that you sometimes find with their abdomens just swarming with tiny baby spiders.

Gross, huh?



I had originally intended to mention the Huntsman spider from Australia as well—one of the leading causes of car accidents, after all, and the star of the movie Arachnophobia. Huntsman are friendly, agile, fast, and perfectly harmless. Unfortunately, these are usually the only photos you can catch of them:





…so, I opted out of them.

Thanks for dropping by, and I hope it was a little informative!

Tags: picspam
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