On the murky summer nights that have been in great abundance this summer, it’s always a treat to grab a flashlight and head outdoors for a spider hunt. By holding the light at just the right angle and projecting the bean about 10 yards ahead, you can encounter the reflection of spider eyes. Follow the beacon of diamond- fired reflections, and, if you are lucky, you may encounter an amazing spider. On a recent adventure, I was fortunate to find a fantastic wolf spider playing the role of guardian and nursemaid to dozens of her spiderlings.
Following spider eyeshine may reward you with a close encounter of the arachnid kind. Note dozens of spiderlings on the mother’s back.
Weeks ago the female spun her round silken egg sac and dragged it about beneath her abdomen until her babies hatched. She then helped them escape their silken prison by shearing it open with her fangs. The tiny spiderlings clambered onboard their mother’s body and ever since have been hitching a ride until they are large enough to fend for themselves.
Wolf spiders are among the most common hunting spiders found in our gardens. They are important predators of plant pests such as leafhoppers, lacebugs, and caterpillars. Most wolf spiders do not make webs, but actively hunt on the ground. Some build burrows in the ground as a refuge in which to hide, and then ambush hapless prey that wanders too near. Although they look fierce, wolf spiders are believed to be harmless to people. However, a close relative of wolf spiders here in the US is a species known as the European Tarantula, Lycosa tarantula. This rascal was once the most feared of spiders in Italy. Legend has it that the effects of a bite from the European Tarantula could only be cured by performing a frenzied, whirling dance called the tarantella. Sounds like fun!
For some real summer fun and adventure that sure beats watching reruns on the tube, grab your flashlight and head outdoors on a suburban safari on a steamy summer night. You might be surprised at what you find.
Wolf spiders crush and macerate their victims with powerful fangs. Spiders are important predators of many kinds of insects found in and around the home.
Bug of the Week thanks spider lady Dr. Shrewsbury for recording video of the wolf spider climbing on the bug geek’s hand. Two great references, “Spiders” by Ken and Rod Preston-Mafham, and “Biology of Spiders” by Ranier Felix, were used in preparation of this episode.
To learn more about fascinating spiders and their kin, visit the following web sites: