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SPIDERS

BACKGROUND | BIOLOGY | BEHAVIOR

 Wolf Spider Southern Crevice Spider Brown Recluse Southern Black Widow

BACKGROUND:

  • Spiders belong to the scientific group Arachnida. Arachnida comes from the word arachne, which means spider in Greek.
  • In Greek mythology, Arachne was a skilled weaver. She was turned into a spider by the goddess Athena for being boastful and saying her weaving was better than that of Athena’s.
  • A famous urban legend states that people swallow 4 spiders per year in their sleep. There are no formal records anywhere in scientific or medical literature to support this.
  • There are more than 30,000 species of spiders.
  • The world’s largest spider by weight is the Goliath or Bird-eating spider found in South America. This tarantula has a leg span of over 10 inches and can weigh 6 oz.!
  • The world’s largest spider by leg span is the Giant Huntsman spider of Laos. It has a leg span of 12 inches!
  • The world’s smallest spider comes from Samoa and is the size of a pinhead.
  • There are four species of widow spiders found in Florida: The Northern and Southern Black Widow, the Brown Widow and the Red Widow. Some of these species do not show the widow’s typical red hourglass marking on the abdomen.
  • Widow spiders are generally very timid and only bite in self-defense when they accidentally contact humans. They prefer hiding in undisturbed areas, such as under rocks and logs, in outbuildings, under eaves, patio furniture or playground equipment, etc.
  • Very few specimens of the Brown Recluse have been found in Florida (only 17 in last 107 years documented) and there is no indication that it can reproduce and survive in this state. In most cases, people who traveled to an area of Recluse activity brought the spiders back in their vehicle or belongings.
  • It is said that the Brown Recluse is the only spider with the tell-tale fiddle shape on its back. Other spiders have a similar marking, such as the male Southern Crevice spider. A unique characteristic of the Brown Recluse is that it has 6 eyes, where most spiders have 8.
  • The desert dwelling Camel spider is not a true spider and does not eat camels! Camel spiders are members of the class Arachnida called solifugids. They are not venomous, but they can give a nasty bite! They feed on insects, rodents, lizards and small birds. They are also called sun spiders or wind scorpions.
  • Harvestmen are not spiders. These animals, along with crane flies and cellar spiders, are often referred to as daddy longlegs or granddaddy longlegs.
  • There is a common misconception that the daddy longlegs has the world’s most powerful venom, but its fangs are so small that it can’t penetrate your skin. Harvestmen have fangs, but no venom glands. The crane fly is a fly, and has no fangs at all. The cellar spider does have fangs and venom, but its venom is relatively weak. 
     

BIOLOGY:

  • Scorpions, ticks, harvestmen and mites are also classified in the Arachnida class. Most members of this class have 8 legs and 2 body sections. Insects have 6 legs and 3 body sections.
  • Most spiders are solitary, so the female will release pheromones to attract a male for mating purposes.
  • Before mating, the male must signal to the female that he is indeed a spider suitor and not prey or a predator. In a web, he might accomplish this by producing a certain vibration on the webbing. For spiders with good eyesight, the males may perform a courtship dance.
  • Some spiders may lay hundreds, even thousands of eggs in one shot. Oftentimes spiders will encase their eggs in a silken pouch and leave them in a safe place, while other spiders will stay with their eggs until they hatch.
  • Spiders inject venom with their fangs to help them feed and to protect them from predators. Some venoms act as neurotoxins (toxic to the nervous system), while others are hemotoxins (toxic to blood and tissue cells). 
     

BEHAVIOR:

  • Not all spiders make webs, but they may use silk for other purposes. A “web” is a silk construction made to catch prey. Some spiders use silk to make their egg sacs, draglines or a place to hide. Small spiders may even use silk to balloon on the wind.
  • Only about half of the known spider species catch prey by means of webs. Others, such as the wolf spider, hunt for prey. Some, like the Trap Door spider, sit and wait for prey to come to them.
  • To avoid being bitten by a spider, it is recommended that people performing activities in which they cannot see where their hands are being placed (such as lifting boards or firewood or reaching into storage boxes) should wear gloves.
  • Spiders will generally be found in locations of insect activity (insects are a food source). This is oftentimes why spider webs are seen close to outdoor lighting and in large amounts near wooded locations.
  • Reducing insect pressure around the home should reduce spider pressure, as well. Reduce clutter and debris outside. Keep grass mowed. Use yellow “bug” light bulbs for outdoor lighting, rather than fluorescent lights. Remove cob webs on the exterior of your home, as well as on outbuildings, playground equipment, etc.

Trivia:

  • The weight of insects eaten by spiders every year is greater than the total weight of the entire human population.
  • Spiders have 48 'knees'... eight legs with six joints on each.
  • A tarantula's bite can be painful, but it isn't any more dangerous than a bee sting.
  • How high could Michael Jordan jump if he were a jumping spider?  If Michael Jordan could jump proportionately as high as a jumping spider, he would be able to dunk on a 260-foot-high rim.
  • Spider silk is extremely strong and elastic. It can be stretched up to 25% of its own length.

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