What’s all this, then?

I stick up for spiders. I’m not an expert, just a fan. Someone who’s convinced that if you take a bug’s-eye view of your surroundings you’ll learn something about your neighborhood and the world. And along the way you might find a way to disentangle a web of misunderstanding stretching back before we meddling bipeds came along—which is, incidentally, the only “web” pun I hope to make, at least deliberately, at least today.

This is mostly about the spiders who cross my path in San Jose, California.

I’m a journalist who learned long ago to write about things you love. This is one of them.

"It followed me home from the Internet, ma. Can I keep it?" (Photo of Phidippus mystaceus ©2008 by Thomas Shahan; licensed under Creative Commons)


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6 Responses to What’s all this, then?

  1. Lupe

    May 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    How can i send you my spider photos from Yungas subtropical valleys in BOlivia? I have some beautiful spiders, but have NO idea of their classification! If you can give me an address, or a way of posting photos… could you help? WOuld you be interested?

  2. Nada

    March 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    My grandson often checks an unused shower enclosure for bugs, and yesterday saw a spider. Even though there was some evidence that the spider was very happy there (that is, insect carcasses), this 5-y-o was convinced that the spider would be happier outside–so, I moved it out. Then I felt bad about it and told the boy that some spiders may be happier in the house, and he wanted to know if this was true and WHY? Can you comment on “house spiders” please? All I could tell him was that I had kept pet spiders in various dwellings in the past, and had watched them grow on the insects that I couldn’t really see, and so I inferred that they were happy in the house. Any info is appreciated, especially if it will convince my grandson. Thank you! And thank you for this website–I’ll show it to him next week.

    • charley

      March 30, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      I found a great little posting on that subject by Rod Crawford, who wrangles spiders at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. He says that in short, insider spiders live inside and outside spiders live outside, and rarely do they meet. They’re mostly different species with different needs. He wrote that to address the persistent idea (I notice it every year in smallish newspapers and biggish TV stations) that spiders come inside to get out of the cold. Alternatively: that “this year” there’s a bumper crop of spiders, because somebody excitable happened to notice them more than usual. In fact, mostly we spot house spiders in late summer or early fall (not when it’s cold at all, and besides spiders don’t seek out warmth), when the spiders are sexually mature and looking for mates, not a warm blanket. Rod says that in terms of chosen habitat, we’re not really doing a spider a favor by putting it outside.

      But you know what? He might not have cats. Or he might not have been thinking of some poor spider caught in the tub who’s going to dry out and die if it’s not rescued by a helpful human. And I know from experience that I see several species inside the house that I also see in the yard, or at least under the edge of a roof or in the (unheated) garage. So I like to think that by ushering outdoors a spider that would otherwise have become a cat toy, especially when the weather’s warm and mild and there’s no risk of it freezing to death, it’s a good deed.

      • Nada

        March 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm

        Thank you! This account will intrigue my grandson. And I can emphasize the cat factor, because the same day, I saw my cat chasing (indoors) a slender black spider that might have been a sibling of the one I turfed out (I think the cat gave up). Thanks again!

  3. thespiderhuggerswife

    March 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    That jumping spider up there? I think I love him.

    • charley

      March 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      Great legs, big green eyes, magnificent facial hair … I cannot compete.


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