Why I’m An Arachnophile
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When I talk to people about spiders I find that the majority’s reactions range from disdain to sheer horror. I’ve never understood why so many people are phobic about these creatures. All spiders are predators and their prey consists pretty much exclusively of the insect pests that cause serious problems for humans. All spiders are indifferent to us. No spider has ever stalked and deliberately attacked a human. We’re not a prey species for these creatures. They may defend themselves if pressured or under attack but most spiders’ venom is harmless to people. There are only a couple of species in this country whose venom potentially can make a human sick. Furthermore, most “deadly” spider bites turn out to be something altogether different. I read recently that many so-called “brown recluse bites” turn out to be wounds caused by other agents — such as mosquito bites — that become infected.
What puzzles me most about people’s antipathy towards spiders is how many tell me that they find spiders to be disgusting and ugly. I find that to be bizarre. Close up, many turn out to be astonishingly beautiful.
This little orb weaver that I saw today while walking around Sabino Canyon is a case in point. The spider — the kind that spins elaborate webs — is about 1/2 inch across. She had spun her web on a small bush and she was happily picking off wayward gnats and other small insects when I found her.
Check out the markings on this little beauty’s abdomen. I have no idea why this spider evolved such an intricate pattern of markings but I find them to be absolutely gorgeous.
Orb weavers specialize in waiting for prey to become entangled in their webs. A small insect that blunders into an orb weaver’s web triggers vibrations that the spider senses with her feet. She responds to the vibrations by running to their source and wrapping tightly any prey that she finds with her silk. The spider then leisurely devours her prey once it is wrapped, mummy-like. In this next photo you can see her eyes. Like all spiders she has eight of them, but she actually relies on her sense of vibration far more than on her sight.
There are numerous species of orb weavers, coming in innumerable shapes and colors. They range in size from no larger than a pinhead to giants that are two or more inches across. None of them are harmful to humans.
I enjoyed watching this spider at work for about 15 minutes and taking a few pictures. I left her undisturbed. Hopefully, she’ll dine on many more insect pests before autumn ends.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens, assisted by 600EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 125, “M” setting, f16 @ 1/160.