Arachnophobes beware!

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A garden spider (Araneus diadematus), one of the most common web-spinning spiders in my area, originally introduced from Europe. This one had set up shop in my backyard.

In the spirit of the season, it’s time for some creepy crawlies…

So far we’ve identified more than 10 species of spiders living in the garden and no doubt there are many more types. I love seeing spiders in the garden because they eat the animals that are eating my food. In one English study, in late summer one hectare of meadow was found to contain roughly 5 million spiders which suggests these predators are consuming way more harmful bugs than birds do (ref).

All spiders are venomous – venomous means that if that animal bites or stings you a toxin will be put in your system while a poisonous animal will make you sick if you eat it. As far as I know you could eat a spider if you wanted to (I base my spider edibility knowledge off of seeing people eating roasted tarantulas in a move once instead of actual fact). Most spiders are incapable of biting through human skin, especially around here. There are some exceptions, black widow spiders for example but I’ve never seen one in real life.

Spiders fall into two general categories – those who spin webs to catch their prey and those who don’t opting for ambush or stalking techniques instead. I have to admit that I absolutely despise walking into spider’s webs – when I roamed the forest as a kid I would always wave a stick in front of my face where ever I went to prevent accidentally getting web on my face. Now I try to avoid wrecking spider’s webs, leaving the spiders to catch their dinner in peace – mostly. Occasionally, when my daughter asks, I’ll ’tickle’ a web so the spider rushes out to investigate.

Beyond being protectors of my food, spiders are amazingly diverse and often quite beautiful. So to any arachnophobes out there, who’ve made it this far into my post – take a look at these links and check out how fantastic spiders can be (go on I dare you):

Here are 10 beauties.

This one is my favorite.

And here is a roundup of local ones.

And, for any arachnophobes still with me, I thought I should mention some spiders have figured out how to soar in the sky. They can’t fly, but using a strand of their silk like a kite they can drift with the wind. More here.

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Another garden spider – but this one had an abdomen roughly the size of my finger nail.

Happy Halloween!

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