Tan Jumping Spider

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Recently I found one of these creatures in my house. This cryptically-colored spider is common on all sorts of vertical surfaces like tree trunks, fence posts, and the outer walls of buildings. Many will overwinter under loose tree bark, which may explain how this one got indoors; it was looking for shelter from Winter.

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Jumping Spiders hunt by sight and have very good vision. Like some other types of Jumping Spiders, this species appears to exhibit a curiosity towards humans who come into its sightline.

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These furry arachnids have enormous front-facing eyes which make them seem almost mammal-like in appearance. The rest of their eight eyes wrap around their heads, giving them almost 360-degree vision.

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Tan Jumping Spiders are most active in the Summer and I commonly see them on the outside of my house as well as on deck rails. Despite their “tan” common name, they are often varying shades of gray or brown.

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Though small (less than half an inch), they are accomplished hunters. They approach prey slowly and when a short distance away, make a sudden leap onto an unfortunate insect. They are good jumpers and can leap many times their own body length.

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Scientifically known as Platycryptus undatus, Tan Jumping Spiders usually have a wavy color pattern on the upper part of their abdomen. This undulating pattern is why they received the “undatus” part of their scientific name.

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Their large eyes and curious dispositions help make jumping spiders one of the most appealing groups of spiders.

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Black Widow

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This dark cobweb weaver is easily identified by the bright, hourglass-shaped mark on its abdomen. It is wildly feared due to its venom.

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In humans, bites can cause muscle aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult; however, contrary to popular belief, most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage – let alone death.

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Like many other spiders, Black Widows puncture their insect prey with their fangs and administer digestive enzymes. The enzymes liquefy their prey’s bodies and the spiders suck up the resulting fluid.

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Black Widows are found in temperate regions throughout the world. In the United States, they exist primarily in the South and West. They may be found in dark, man-made dry shelters like barns, garages, basements and outdoor toilets. I have occasionally found them under rocks and logs.

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These spiders are primarily solitary, with the exception of late spring when mating occurs. Female Black Widows can live up to three years, while males (which are half the size of females and lighter in color) typically live for one or two months.

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Although Black Widows get their name because females practice cannibalism after mating, this has mostly been observed in laboratory situations where the male could not escape being eaten.

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Widely considered the most venomous spider in North America (the venom of the female black widow spider is 15 times as toxic as the venom of the prairie rattlesnake), Black Widows are not aggressive and tend not to bite unless thoroughly disturbed.

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Arizona Blond Tarantula

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After making quite a few trips to the Mojave Desert, I finally came across my first wild tarantulas. This species has a limited distribution in the deserts of the southwestern United States and adjacent parts of Mexico, but can be common within its range.

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Tarantulas rarely venture far from their burrows unless it is mating season. In Winter they plug their burrows with soil, rocks and silk to survive in a relatively inactive state. During this time they live off stored fat reserves.

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Soft blond hair covers female Arizona Blond Tarantulas, while males are typically black. Female tarantulas have larger, stockier bodies than males. Living as long as 25 years, female tarantulas live twice as long as males. Males mate only once and die shortly afterwards.

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Tarantulas have an interesting defensive capability in addition to their bite. Some of the hairs on the top of the abdomen are tipped with backward pointing barbs. If a tarantula is threatened, it uses its legs to flick these hairs at its attacker. Once these hairs are embedded, they are irritating and very difficult to remove.

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Arizona Blond Tarantulas burrow 8 to 12 inches into the desert ground, line the burrow with silk webbing, and call it home. The silk webbing helps to prevent their burrow from caving in.

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These nocturnal hunters have a diet consisting mostly of grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, other small spiders and even small lizards, snakes and frogs. They rely on ambush and pursuit to catch their prey, which they subdue with a bite from their fangs.

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This is an awesome arachnid and it was thrilling to find my first examples of it in the wild.

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Cave Orb Weaver

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While visiting Carter Caves, Kentucky I frequently encounter this creature in the caverns. This species is found mainly in caves in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. Spiders are adaptable creatures and man-made habitats such as cellars can also serve as habitat for these eight-legged beings.

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Cave Orb Weavers belong to the family Tetragnathidae – commonly called Long-jawed Orb Weavers – but they lack the huge, serrated jaws and elongated bodies and legs that characterize their nearest relatives. As with many spiders, the males this species are considerably smaller than the females.

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Life in a cave has some obvious and distinct differences from the environment surrounding it, such as constant darkness, cool temperatures and limited resources. One way the Cave Orb Weavers deal with this is to build their webs by the lights installed in the cave systems. This attracts insects, provides light and creates warmth.

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Rather than residing in the dark depths of caves, Cave Orb Weavers tend to build their webs in near the entrances and in the “twilight zones” of caves. They often sit on the edge of their web, rather than resting in the center. Cave life is a poorly studied topic, and there is still much to learn about these mysterious arachnids.

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Marbled Orbweaver

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While hiking along the edge of a swamp in southern Illinois, I came across this very cool creature. This species is impressive in both size and pattern. The unique marbled pattern of colors on the abdomen, as well its orange head and black and white legs make for visually stunning arachnid.

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This spider tends to build its web in trees and shrubs in moist, wooded settings. Unlike most other orbweavers in its genus, it hides in a silken retreat near its web. The retreat is made of leaves folded over and held together with silk. One strand of silk extends all the way the retreat. If it vibrates, the spider knows it has caught something.

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The “orbweaver” part of the name comes from its web, which the spider weaves to form a circular, or orb-like grid. The fragile web is easily damaged, so the spider spends time each day repairing it, regularly rebuilding it entirely.

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The Marbled Orbweaver often falls to the ground if it senses it is in danger. It is sometimes also called the Pumpkin Spider because of its resemblance to orange pumpkin.

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Crab Spider

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This is a fun little invertebrate that I found on my latest trip to southern Illinois. I have also seen examples in California, as well as in my home state of Ohio.

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Many species on this family of arachnids are referred to as “Flower Crab Spiders,” though not all members are limited to ambush hunting in flowers.

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Crab Spiders get their common name for the way they hold their two front pairs of legs, their flat shape and their ability to scuttle sideways or backwards.

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Some types frequent promising positions among leaves or bark, where they await prey, while others sit in the open, well camouflaged and using stealth by matching their surroundings.

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Instead of spinning webs, they are hunt-by-surprise predators that wait motionless for flies, bees and similar prey. These spiders tend to be quite small, only about a half of an inch in body length, and go largely unnoticed.

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Although not especially dangerous to humans, scientists think that the venom of certain Crab Spiders is more potent than that of most other spiders and this allows them to quickly paralyze the large and tough bees that often visit flowers (or in this case, a cicada).

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Their cool shape and wide variety of colors make Crab Spiders fun photography subjects that also present a challenge to find.

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Ant Mimic Jumping Spider

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Working in my yard this weekend, a came across this tiny, yet fascinating invertebrate. It’s very small size and body shaped more like ant than a spider, at first glance, it may be difficult to tell that this creature is a spider.

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It walks with its front pair of legs raised in the air as if they were antennae, making it tricky to identify it as a spider when first counting legs. The resemblance to ants is a defense against predators. Many types of ants are pungent to taste and are unlikely to become food for larger predators.

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Ant Mimic Spiders often live near ant hills or nests to benefit from the ant’s unsavory reputation for tasting bad. They can be found anywhere ants are found: fields, lawns, gardens, woods, on trees and under stones.

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The Ant Mimic Jumping Spider is one of the few species in genus Myrmarachne that is found outside the tropics. Its species name, formicaria means “ant-like” in Latin.

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Dark Fishing Spider

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Fishing Spiders are similar to the larger Wolf Spiders in size, shape, and coloration. They get their common name because most live near water and have been reported to catch small fish and aquatic insects from the water as they walk on the surface.

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I tend to find them in and around my shed, which is close to a creek that runs through my backyard. This creature is frequently associated with wooded areas and I’ve seen them in the local Metroparks, especially in damp areas.

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This is a fairly large spider, with females being twice as large as males. When outstretched legs, one can measure over 3” long. Both sexes are brownish-gray in color with black and lighter brown markings. The legs have dark rings and long spines.

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Ohio hosts five species of fishing spiders, all members of the nursery web spider family. These arachnids don’t spin conventional webs, instead they ambush and pounce on prey.

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Young spiderlings may be found from July through September. The young are guarded by the female in a nursery web and may number 1,000 or more.

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As horrifying as fishing spiders might appear, they are utterly harmless to people and are quite shy. They also play a pivotal role in controlling insects, which would otherwise surge out of control.

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Eastern Parson Spider

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It seems like the past few Winters I’ve found one of these in my house. This arachnid is named after the abdominal markings resembling an old-style cravat worn by clergy in the 18th century.

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The Eastern Parson Spider is part of a stealthy group of ground spiders. This family of hunting spiders spins silken retreats in leaves and under boards and stones to hide in during the day; they hunt at night.

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This spider is widespread everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains, from southern Alberta across to Nova Scotia and south to Texas and Florida. West of the Rockies it is replaced by the Western Parson Spider.

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The Eastern Parson Spider is fairly commonly around buildings, often preying on small insects that are attracted to outdoor lights These creatures will run in a zigzag fashion to evade predators; for this reason, they are hard to capture when seen in homes.

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It is furry, and about nickel sized. Although this spider presents a startling appearance, living indoors as it frequently does, it is not considered harmful.

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Furrow Spider

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These spiders are most often found in moist areas, especially near water. Their orb webs are typically low to the ground in shrubbery or between grasses.

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This creature can be extremely common near the shores of lakes, particularly Lake Erie (where the examples in this blog were found), but also occur in other parts of Ohio and in fact are are common throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

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Furrow spiders are known to overwinter as adults: this is noteworthy because typical orb weaver species live for only one year, dying before winter. Orb weavers comprise a huge family of spiders, with 3500 species worldwide, 180 of which call North America home.

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Individuals ingest their web each night, recycling silk material to rebuild daily damage. When food is scarce, these spiders may make more or larger webs in a single night, in an effort to catch more prey.

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Orb weaver males are generally much smaller than the females and commonly lack the showy coloring of their fairer sex, but that is not so with this species; the males are only slightly smaller, and are equally gaudily-decorated. This creature is also commonly known as the foliate spider, after its prominent folium, or pigmented design on the abdomen.

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