Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Favorite Martian

"There's a huge spider in the carport," Todd mentioned last week. 

"Really?" I said.  I haven't been outside much, to let my bites heal, but yesterday I started thinking, I wonder if that big spider is still there?  Actually, I didn't need a spider sighting to know that they're everywhere here.  No matter how often we clean webs from our windows, they look like this in a day or two:

Our carport is absolutely wreathed in webs.

Todd's spider was dead (male funnel weavers often die after mating), but I didn't have to look far to find another one.

The story of this spider (Agelenidae Agelenopsis) made an impression on me.  I know that people are squeamish about spiders, and I often hesitate to blog about them.  But I was sitting at a traffic light this morning and mused, "That coiled wire above the light reminds me of that male funnel weaver's pedipalps..." and I knew I had to talk about this fascinating spider.  You may have to click on the photo to enlarge for detail, but see those "arms" with the funny shiny coils?  Those are exclusive to male funnel weavers.  Those "arms" (pedipalps) hold their sperm, and the tips are modified into fancy black coils (these are what are actually inserted into the female).  I read that these spiders are fast and have been clocked at 1.7 feet per second (on their webs).  Their webs aren't sticky and don't need to be, because the spider is fast enough to catch any prey that stumbles into their web. 

I spent an hour reading about funnel weaver spiders last night, and started thinking about my journey to 'spider acceptance'.  I've always photographed beautiful webs:

...but I've always been admittedly squeamish about the spider itself.  I had a similar feeling about praying mantises, with their staring, alien eyes.

But I forced myself to learn about them and get close to them...really close.  Now they're "my favorite martian".

I used the same method for my arachnophobia, and I've found some really incredible spiders.

(Again, you'll probably need to click on the photo for good detail!)

The crab spider, always hiding in flowers to catch insects that alight there:

The clever spiny-backed orb weaver, which checkers its web to warn off low-flying birds:

Argiope and her zig-zaggy web:

My favorite, the Daring Jumping Spider, with its big eyes, funny hopping, and beautifully patterned abdomen:

Don't forget the beautiful jade Venusta Orchard Spider:

There are many others, but I think I've made my point.  Far from avoiding spiders, now I'm even trying to include them in my craft work, like this embroidery project (a future pillowcase):

It's not always easy, but I hope you'll go out of your comfort zone with a new insect/spider that you may have, in the past, avoided.  Who knows what you'll learn?

Have a great week!  

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