Friday, June 5, 2009

Time for a Bio Lesson

I love animals - and I'm not afraid of most of them, unless we're talking about spiders. Yes, I suffer from arachnophobia (arachnid - spider; phobia - fear). I've attempted to conquer this fear for years now. Overall, I haven't made much improvement but there are a few exceptions.

I like the Black and Yellow Argiope.
I came across this spider while I lived in VA. I've never seen one in WV, though sources say that they can live here. Their cousin, the Silver Argiope, is very intolerant of cold weather and is found only in the southern regions of the US.

The female is the large spider on the left. The male is the small one on the right (this species shares a trait with black widows - the female eats the male after mating).

Pay attention to the web - these spiders are orb weavers; most orb weavers spin almost invisible webs. Ever walked into a web that you didn't see when walking through the woods? There's a pretty good chance that it belonged to an orb weaver (I don't know about other orb  weavers, but the argiope prefers to build between 2 and 6 feet from the ground). Unlike other spiders, the argiope is fairly lazy. It doesn't rebuild it's web every night; instead, it patches and repairs it.
It's speculated that the neat zig-zag design in the center is so that the web can be seen and people/animals can avoid walking into it. 

That laziness has a lot to do with why I like them. For two consecutive years, I had at least one living in my daisy bed and noticed that they stayed in the same place. They never jumped out unexpectedly to scare me. When I needed to weed or deadhead the daisies, I could always find this spider either in it's web or hiding on one of the plants that it's web was attached to.

There's another spider that I'm not scared of - the daring jumping spider. These guys can jump up to 50 times their body size! The do not spin webs, but actually track and hunt (pounce) their prey. They have amazing eyesight (among the best in the spider kingdom).

I saw a lot of these when I was a kid growing up in WV - for some screwed up reason, these little guys don't bother me (and never have). I didn't see these guys very often in VA or TN but I'm seeing a lot of them at our new house (also in WV) so I think these guys do very well in this state.

These often wander into homes while searching for food. We recently had one take up residence in our bathroom. Mike never saw it - every time I went to get him so he could collect the spider and take it outside, the spider had went back into hiding. But it chose to come out of hiding every time I used the bathroom. It stayed near the medicine cabinet (which we don't use - we're in the process of building a new bathroom and as soon as it's finished, this bathroom is being demolished). Every time I brushed my teeth, it would come out and watch me. Being the weird person that I am, I talked to it and we reached an understanding - it wouldn't scare me if I wouldn't kill it and vice versa (okay, that conversation was probably all in my head but the spider did abide by the agreement). We lived with that arrangement for about a week.

I finally captured it this morning, using one of those cardboard boxes that soap comes in. And again, I was struck by the eerie way it seemed to know what I was doing. I didn't have to chase it down - which is good, because these spiders are incredibly fast. It climbed into the box with little prompting and I took it outside. I'm extremely proud of that fact - normally, I don't even want to be within two feet of a spider. So, does that mean I made a little bit of progress in conquering my phobia?

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