Wednesday April 2
Wendle and I are sitting in the living room last Saturday evening. We’ve been studying our Foodsafe 1 course material and it’s pretty late. Suddenly, on the wall opposite our couch, we notice one of the biggest freakin spiders either of us have ever seen
(it’s huge, gigantic, humongous even…a destroyer of cities)
Stop it. That’s not even a spider for gawd’s sakes…it’s an ant
The Spider on our wall is very large though, and of a type that neither Wendy or I recognize
(it’s huge, hairy and horrible and it likes the taste of human flesh)
What is it with this irrational fear of spiders?
They are different but they’re also really cool
“scientists are now researching the use of spider venom in medicine and as non-polluting pesticides. Spider silk provides a combination of lightness, strength and elasticity that is superior to that of synthetic materials…” (Wikipedia)
You should also know that Spiders are an important part of their Eco-System and play a role in controlling the population of insect pests inside our homes
So…we have this big beautiful spider in our living room. Now what do we do
(squash it with a rolled up newspaper?)
No. There’ll be no squashing. We don’t even know what kind it is.
“Hey, let’s take it’s picture and search for a match online”, says Wendy
So we do
This is the pic of our new roommate
We then pour through a whack of online spider photos and find one that looks like it
(what does it say)
It says it’s a Giant House Spider. Non-Poisonous (whew)…
“The non-poisonous Giant House Spider (tegeneria gigantea) looks very similar to a hobo spider, (tegeneria agrestis) . The trouble is, they hang out in the same places. If you see one, often you have the other. We prefer to kill them all, and apply a barrier to keep them out of your living spaces.” (greenshirts.net)
Well that doesn’t sound right. Why would you kill a non-poisonous spider? In fact, why would you kill any spider?
(because it’s in your living room)
Let’s research this a bit more
Here’s another pretty good match
(what does this site say?)
This is a University of British Columbia webpage…E-Fauna BC. It also identifies our houseguest as a Giant House Spider…and this guy, Robb Bennett, says, “Note that no verified case of hobo spider envenomation exists. In Canada, hobo spiders are found only in southern British Columbia.”
See…nothing to be afraid of
(what does this Robb Bennett guy know?)
Well…he has a PhD in Spider Taxonomy/Systematics and is “currently a Research Associate (Entomology) with the Royal British Columbia Museum, collaborating with two other spiders experts, museum collections manager Claudia Copley and museum volunteer Darren Copley, to document the full diversity of spiders in British Columbia.” (Biodiversity of British Columbia)
Wendle says, “Hey, let’s send them the photo and see if they can ID it for sure”
So that’s what we did
The next morning, we receive a response to our e-mail
“Hi Steve – the folks at EFauna BC forwarded your query to me.
Yes, your spider is a female “giant house spider”. They are very common in and around homes, as well as in many more natural habitats, here in the southwestern corner of BC.
I don’t believe they are a deterrent to hobo spiders – I routinely find both species coexisting here, at least in outdoor locations. They exploit slightly different microhabitats where they co-occur and this may be why they appear to get along just fine.
No need to worry about this however – the supposed medical importance of hobo spiders is mythology/folklore that, unfortunately won’t seem to die off.”
Wow…this is awesome. A chance to gather ‘actual facts’ from an actual expert…a passionate and dedicated Scientist
I write Robb a quick thank you note and mention that Wendy and I are from Ontario and haven’t seen spiders this big before
Robb writes us back again to say that he’s also from Ontario and that there are two species of Dock Spider that are even bigger
“There are a bunch of different “dock spiders” or “nurseryweb spiders” in Canada and all are relatively large. The two I mentioned from Ontario are considered to be the largest spiders in Canada – Latin names Dolomedes tenebrosus and Dolomedes scriptus. They are usually found near water (hence the English name dock spiders) in wooded areas but tenebrosus also can be found quite a ways from water. They are active hunters and can dive under water to catch aquatic insect prey and can even take down minnows and small tadpoles and frogs. In late summer mature females build large tangled webs in which they rear their young (this is where the nurseryweb name comes from).”
“If you spend any time in cottage country in Ontario you will run into one or the other of these species eventually. This can be alarming to the uninitiated.“
Fantastic. Thank You Robb. And thank you for allowing us to share your words on the blog…we hope it helps. Keep up the great work!
(and be careful out there…you know what happened to that other Spider expert)
For the last time…that’s an ANT
(well thanks to Robb i no longer have an irrational fear of Spiders so, now i’m going to invest in an equally irrational fear of radioactively enlarged, 1950’s B-Movie Ants…if that’s okay with you)
Moose and Wendle