Spider Beach


On the morning of September 19, 300 meters of shoreline in Aitoliko, Greece woke to a gossamer siege of Tetragnatha spider web. Commonly called stretch spiders for their elongated bodies, over 300 species of harmless Tetragnatha inhabit our world. Partial to low vegetation at waters edge, stretch spiders thrive on mosquitoes and water born insects. Every few years a perfect storm of warm moist weather and mosquito bloom spark a stretch spider orgy. But for carefree visual grandstanding, arachnid party-goers mating with wild abandon while gorging on mosquitoes would remain nature’s secret.

https://greece.greekreporter.com/2018/09/18/massive-spider-web-covers-an-entire-beach-in-greece-photos/

Plants and palm trees covered in a veil of spider webs

Plants and palm trees covered in a veil of spider webs

Plants covered in a veil of spider webs

 

Image result for tetragnatha spiders

Tetragnatha Spider

Advertisements

Catch And Release


A few minutes ago youngest son presented a wad of toilet paper. “Hey Mom, does this look like a black widow?” Before I could say “pretty sure it was before you squashed it to smithereens”, youngest son apologetically explained his act of arachnid annihilation. “Sitting on the toilet when it ran towards me, squashed it before I had time to think”. Trust me it wasn’t after you, went unspoken. Youngest son knew how I felt about killing spiders.

giphy (72)

Spider bites are extremely rare, truth is they want nothing to do with us. Spiders exist to control insect populations. House spiders control flies, snag mosquitoes, sideline beetles and trounce moths. Garden spiders feast on aphids ,control grubs and beetles, dissuade spider mites and crop destroying grasshoppers. But for spiders, ours would be a unrecognizable world. Like it or not, spiders matter.

It’s no secret I have a thing for spiders. Truth be told, the first thing I did after youngest son dispatched bathroom widow was check on kitchen widow. The sight of kitchen window widow’s shellacked body eased regret over bathroom widow’s demise. Well behaved spiders are welcome in my house, uppity ones are caught and released.

Catch and release contradicts human nature. Instinct commands our imperative to eradicate arachnid invaders. I get it, house spiders terrify most people. That said, next time a spider surprises you on the toilet, muster the fortitude to catch and release. All it takes is a glass and sheet of paper. Spiders aren’t after us, they mean us no harm. Trust me, catch and release feels great.

 

 

Death Of Our Oldest Spider, Zombie Caterpillars And Masquerading Ant Butt Beetles


Fellow Worpresser Peter ( https://ppazucha.wordpress.com/ ) sent word of a tragic arachnid death. The world’s oldest spider, a female Australian trapdoor spider known only as Number 16 was found dead in her burrow at age 43. Number 16 didn’t succumb to old age, her death is credited to a parasitic wasp attack. Wasps enter burrows laying eggs in or on the spider. When eggs hatch, larvae eat the spider from outside in or inside out. Number 16 was identified in 1973 by Barbara York Main, the University of Western Australia arachnologist known as “the spider lady”, part of Main’s trapdoor spider population study in the central wheat-belt of Western Australia.¬†Before Number 16, a 28-year-old captive Mexican tarantula held the title of oldest known spider. Curse you parasitic wasp, RIP Number 16.

Image result for number 16 dies burrow

Image result for number 16 dies burrow

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-monday-edition-1.4641540/the-world-s-oldest-spider-was-killed-by-a-parasitic-wasp-1.4641544

It’s impossible to Google death of world’s oldest spider without stumbling upon a plethora of insect peculiarities.

Chris Miller, project manager of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, England discovered a lethal virus that turns caterpillars into zombies. Baculovirus affects how caterpillars’ brains react to sunlight and forces them to make a death march towards treetops in the middle of the day. Zombie caterpillars march to the treetops and die. Their bodies liquefy, the virus bursts out of their corpses and drips onto victims below.

What remains of an oak eggar moth caterpillar after it climbed to the top of a tree and liquefied. (Chris Miller)

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.4232025/a-virus-in-england-is-turning-caterpillars-into-exploding-zombies-1.4232030

Hats off to Nymphister Kronaueri, a new species of beetle identified by Christoph¬†Von Beeren, an ecologist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Darmstadt while studying army ants with his colleague Daniel Kronauer in the Costa Rica rainforest, spring 2014. Camped in the jungle, watching army ants by lamplight, they noticed ants with double butts. Closer inspection revealed another example of specialized adaptation in the natural world. Evolutionary whimsy decreed army ants wouldn’t notice a stowaway beetle masquerading as an ant ass. Army ants are apex predators, voracious marauders stinging, dismembering and devouring unfortunate spiders, birds, snakes and small animals along the way. Over 300 insect species shadow ant armies feeding on scraps. Science doesn’t know why, but for what must be a very good reason nature insists a piggy-backing ant butt beetle gets first crack at the buffet.

From above, it’s hard to tell this army ant has a beetle attached to its rear. (M. Maruyama)

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.3984065/is-it-a-butt-or-a-bug-newly-discovered-beetle-masquerades-as-ant-s-backside-1.3984071

 

Season Of Spider Love


In my corner of the world spiders are considered summertime house invaders. With seasonal predictability they arrive on the promise of spring staking claim to the garden. As days lengthen we open windows and doors, inviting spiders into our homes with warm weather indifference. Canadian summers are fleeting, knowing they’ll be gone at first frost excuses occasional household spider drama.

As I write, autumn chill suggests a timely spider farewell – not so fast, this is the season of spider love.

Three species in particular, the Hobo, Barn Tunnel Weaver and “giant house spider” Eratigena Atrica reach sexual maturity in autumn. All three abandon their horizontal sheet or funnel garden webs in search of love. Just when Canadians let their guard fall with autumn leaves, harmless lovelorn spiders appear in bathtubs, basements and bedroom walls.

As spiders go they aren’t behemoth, venomous or likely to bite, all they want is a little love.Take a deep breath, stifle screams, scoop and show them the door.

What Have I Done


Chances of finding someone who shares relaxed indifference toward a Black Widow spider living 18 months in their basement window are slim to none. Likewise genuine remorse for basement widow’s unceremonious death, or wobbly knee outrage over vacuum hose eradication wielded by a concerned family member. I sulked for weeks, outraged by audacity of family capable of decisive spider intervention while I was away.

“I liked that spider, it wasn’t bothering you!” met “Are you nuts? Have you seen what a Black Widow bite can do?”. Yes I replied, but you don’t understand, this spider liked the basement window. Knowing they acted reasonably didn’t ease the loss of basement widow.

I haven’t told them basement widow’s polite demeanor might have been a peculiar anomaly. Nor have I divulged “what have I done” alarm over recent Black Widow sightings. Widows I might add, who by all appearances lack the courtesy of basement widow. Three Black Widow encounters in the past two days, all eluding attempts to catch and release, not one downstairs where they belong. Oh my, what have I done.

These widows are feisty, smaller and alarmingly craftier than the soothing persona of basement widow. One in windowsill cactus above my kitchen sink, another attempting to claim the bathroom window, a third exuding what you gonna do about it confidence between folds of the spare bedroom curtain. What have I done? Three allowed themselves to be seen, how many lurk unseen.

RIP House Widow


On a trip to the laundry room several years ago I discovered a black widow spider. As the only family member licensed to dispatch spiders, her demise was automatic and swift. My husband protected us from snakes, spiders were my responsibility. A practical, unspoken arrangement acted upon without hesitation, quelling arachnid hysteria never bothered me. If a snake ever hissed in the house my husband would do the same. I forgave the one and only house snake in our 35 years, the garter snake he and the kids brought home in a bucket, the one they named Mrs. Slithers when she gave birth to 11 babies the following day, but that’s another story.

Soon after finding laundry room widow, many more disturbed domestic harmony. Upstairs, downstairs, bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms – black widows were becoming a problem. Some had to be executed, but only as a last resort when catch and release failed. Along the way a peculiar affinity developed for well mannered widows. Rogue spiders couldn’t be allowed to roam at will, homesteaders were another matter.

For a while “No, of course I don’t want a black widow bite”, “Yes, I’ll do something about basement widow” sandbagged rising dismay. Relax! Spiders are my job, the situation is under control!

My son broke the news. “You were sleeping…” “We saw an egg sack…” “Sprayed it with Raid…” “Got the vacuum out…” I heard myself say, you killed my spider? Then wished I could take it back because it sounded so crazy. “We can get you a pet spider” he offered with genuine sympathy. “It’s ok, I don’t want a pet spider” was spoken, “I liked that spider” wasn’t.

I couldn’t explain without sounding unbalanced, wouldn’t expect them to understand mild obsession with observing the same spider for almost 2 years. Their spiders are my snakes, I get it. RIP basement widow.

 

Basement Widow Update


Basement widow hasn’t crossed my mind in a while. Paid a visit after work tonight, snapping a hasty cell phone image of her impressive domain.

Research indicates female black widows have a life span of up to three years. My spider is entering her second basement summer. Rest easy, I’ll update her status every few months.