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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Long-jawed Orb Weaver

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Long-jawed Orb Weavers are named because of their large fangs, which are, in some species, longer than the spider’s cephalothorax (first body segment).

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Like all spiders, babies hatch from eggs and look like tiny adults. They shed their skin as they grow. Most spiders in this family live for less than one year. They mate and lay eggs at the end of the Summer and the young spiders hatch during the following Spring.

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Long-jawed Orb Weavers can have a two inch leg span and are skinny. Most are tan with white and yellow markings. They are common in low-growing vegetation and in row crops. I tend to see them at the edges of the Ohio & Erie Canal while hiking on the towpath. Below is a photo one one that I saw eating another of its own species.

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To avoid being eaten by predators, they drop from their web at out at the slightest disturbance, or carefully camouflaging themselves by lining up with the long axis of a twig or grass blade.

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Most members of this family do not build vertical webs, they are usually tilted and sometimes close to horizontal. The bizarre appearance of this creature with its over-sized mandibles makes it a favorite of mine.

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False Black Widow

Stepping out my front door on a warm Winter day, I saw this creature. This species is in the genus Steatoda, which are commonly referred to as False Black Widow Spiders. They are closely related to the true Black Widow Spiders, but are not nearly as venomous.

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Another common name for this arachnid is “Cupboard Spider,” because many species building their webs in dark, sheltered, undisturbed places around the house or garden, in sheds and garages, under garden furniture, bridges, wood piles compost bins and similar structures.

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For a web, the False Black Widow builds a tangled, three-dimensional “cobweb” snare. The silk is not sticky, but prey easily gets tangled and begins to struggle, which sends vibrations to the spider. Using its two back legs, the spider then “throws” silk around the prey until it can no longer escape or harm its captor, at which point it delivers a venom-injecting bite and then begins to feed.

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Female False Black Widows have been reported to live for up to six years (males live for a year to a year and a half), producing numerous offspring. These spiders have a total of eight eyes, arranged in two horizontal rows of four (a pattern typical of cobweb spiders in this family).

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It was neat to come across this creature, a spider which I’ve never seen before, and all I had to do was take a couple of steps out my front door!

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Spined Micrathena

If you’ve ever walked through a spider web in the woods, chances are it was a micrathena’s web. As an added “bonus” they tend to make their webs at face level.

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This is a small species, about 1/2 inch long, with a chunky abdomen with ten spines on it. The abdomen can vary in color, but is usually it is whitish, yellow, or brownish-black. Only female Spined Micrathenas build webs. Male are about half the size of females. They only have a couple of spines and a much flatter abdomen.

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To trap prey, this spider builgs her web between shrubs or small trees, three to seven feet off the ground. Insects that try to fly in between the trees don’t see the web and get caught.

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The female Spined Micrathena eats her web each evening and constructs a new web the following morning. I had one that is living in my front yard this past Summer, and she built each web in the same spot.

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In the daytime the spider hangs out in the center of her web, with her head pointing down. As soon as she feels the vibrations of prey trapped in her web, she runs to bite it. These spiders are slow and clums and many insects escape before they are caught.

Male Spined Micrathenas don’t build webs, though they do weave a “mating thread.” The male finds a female’s web, and weaves his mating thread onto her web. When he’s ready, he quickly runs out and mates with her. Males often do not survive the encounter.

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This is a small, yet very cool spider that I usually enjoy coming across (unless I walk face-first into one of their webs).

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Sowbug Killer

Even for someone who likes “creepy crawlies” this spider, also known as a Woodlouse Hunter, isn’t particularly attractive. This spider’s favorite meal is the sowbug, also known as pill bug, wood louse, or roly poly, depending on where you live. They are easy to identify as they typically have a red head and legs and ivory abdomen. Females are almost twice as large as males.

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This spider is an active hunter, but it does have a lair. Inside its hideout, the remains of previous meals can often be found. The Sowbug Killer not form webs to catch its food. Instead, it finds a prey item and uses its giant jaws to stab it in an ambush attack. Though scary looking, spider is not aggressive, and its venom isn’t particularly potent.

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I tend to find them under rocks, flower pots and logs – all places where sowbugs regularly occur. They are equally at home in urban, suburban and rural areas as are their favorite prey item (sow bugs). Sowbug Killers don’t mind living close to humans and are found mainly in urban gardens, fields and parks.

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They take about 18 months to mature and then may survive an additional year or two. Aside from looking a freeakishly spooky, this creature goes about doing exactly what it’s name implies – killing sowbugs.

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Hacklemesh Weaver

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Sometimes I find “wildlife” in my house, like this creature that turned up in my Living Room this week. Hacklemesh Weavers can live through the Winter and therefore are often found in households during cold weather.

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Outside, their irregular looking webs can be seen in bark and woodpiles and often have roughly the form of a funnel. This species is common in and around homes, but is also found living under rocks, logs and leaf litter. It prefers dark, relatively humid places.

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It is typical for this creature to have chevron-like lighter areas on its abdomen. Its legs are reddish to dark brown. It has eight eyes of relatively similar size, arranged in two horizontal rows of four.

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The Hacklemesh Weaver makes a special kind of silk. Instead of sticky strands, the silk is made of fine, woolly fibers that can entangle even the smallest prey. The spider feels the vibrations from the struggling victim and rushes out to capture it.

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In England, this arachnid is sometimes called the “Old Churchman” because it can be seen scurrying around on the walls and pews of old churches before rain storms.

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Silk-spinning spiders have been around for roughly 400 million years, and they’ve made good use of their time. Today, they occupy just about every habitable region of the Earth…as well as my house.

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House Spider

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These creatures occur throughout the world and have derived their name from their presence inside human dwellings. A number of species are classified as “house spiders,” although the Common House Spider is the most recognized. These arachnids are also sometimes referred to as American House Spiders.

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House Spiders are typically brown or gray in color, with darker chevron markings along their bodies. Their legs are yellow, with rings at the end of each segment. Adult females are considerably larger than males.

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Their presence is typically characterized by the formation of cobwebs; irregularly shaped structures that can be located in various places within a home, including windows, ceiling corners and above or beneath fixtures.

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The abundance of empty webs is caused by the House Spider’s propensity to construct webs in various locations until it finds the most suitable place to catch prey. Unlike some other spider species, House Spiders may choose to cohabitate and mate numerous times. Females deposit as many as 250 eggs into a sac of silk. These sacs are often brown in color and are flask-like in shape. An individual spider can produce over a dozen egg sacs in her lifetime.

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After hatching, air currents disperse surviving spiderlings on threads of silk. This process, known as ballooning, allows spiders to populate areas far from where they were hatched. Adult specimens may survive for more than a year.

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This is one of the most commonly encountered cobweb spiders in urban areas, and can be found in almost every garage, barn, and attic. It is harmless, and it catches and eats flies, mosquitoes, and other pests that enter buildings.

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Orchard Orb Weaver

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These small, but colorful spiders make circular webs often positioned horizontally (rather than vertically, like most orb weavers) the ground. They tend to hang out in the middle of their web.

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Orchard Orb Weavers can be variably colored with silver, green, yellow, red and blue. They have long and slender legs. These creatures provide a valuable service to humans by eating small insects like flies and mosquitos.

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Although this one was photographed in my yard, I have often seen them in low bushes in damp woodlands. They usually build their small webs in low vegetation and occasionally in small trees.

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They can be somewhat common in wooded areas with dense undergrowth, but they are not easily noticed because of their habit of quickly dropping into the leaf litter when disturbed. Its scientific nomenclature has the distinction of being only spider name created by Charles Darwin himself. Its species name, venusta, is Latin for “charming, elegant, or beautiful.”

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Bold Jumper

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Jumping spiders are one the most charismatic arachnids around and during the warmer months I often seen them on my house and on the deck. They tend to be inquisitive and seemingly without fear. When photographing this one, it would typically turn to follow my movements.

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While most of their coloration is black and white, Bold Jumpers also have beautiful emerald green fang bases. They also have a face which looks like a monkey’s.

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Rather than building webs, these spiders hunt prey visually (their large, forward-facing eyes, give them very good stereoscopic vision), stalking their insect victims. Watching one hunt down its food is not unlike watching a cat zero in on its prey. They can move quite quickly and are capable of amazing leaps. Bold Jumpers have been known to jump from 10 to 50 times their body length.

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Although these active hunters not build webs to catch food, they do use webbing to wrap their eggs in or to construct a hideout. They also use their spider silk as a “lifeline” when jumping after prey. If a Bold Jumper comes up short of its target, the line catches the spider and it quickly retreats back to its original hunting spot.

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Jumping spiders tend to be small, usually 1/2-3/4 of an inch. Male Bold Jumpers have “eyebrows,” or tufts of hairs over their eyes. This species has some of the best vision of all spiders. They have eight eyes. Four big eyes are located on the spider’s face. The other four are on top of the head. This fine arachnid is also known as the Daring Jumping Spider.

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