I did not save a spider yesterday.
Did not save one today, either.
Well, if I had seen one....
ESA usually focuses on insects (spiders are not insects) but ESA is all inclusive in this welcoming world of arthropod diversity.
Their online text is worth repeating:
"March 14 is Save A Spider Day in the U.S. and while Charlotte and Peter Parker have been fighting the good fight to redeem the spider's reputation, arachnophobia is still running rampant, especially in the United States. One study conducted during a freshman entomology class at Colorado State University found that "the most commonly mentioned specific factor in spider fear was bites and the perceived danger of spiders with figures indicat[ing] that spider fear levels of college students in Colorado are substantially higher than those reported from European general populations."But are spiders the nightmare they've always been portrayed to be? Do they bite? Do they carry diseases? Are brown recluse spiders everywhere just waiting to strike?
"First of all, a lot of those spider bites you've heard about weren't actually spider bites. A study in the Journal of Medical Entomology has shown that there are several medical conditions that can be commonly misdiagnosed as spider bites including "bacterial, viral, and fungal infections; vasculitis; dermatological conditions; bites and stings from other arthropods; and miscellaneous causes such as allergies or drug reactions, chemical burns, reactions to poisonous plants, or diabetic ulcers." The study also expanded on the idea that Hobo Spiders are disease-transferring which it turns out, they are not. Other common house spiders have also had their name cleared when it comes to spreading MRSA."
The ESA then turned to the brown recluse spiders, pointing out the misidentification and the false information about bites: "Take this study where an infestation of 2,055 brown recluse spiders was collected in a Kansas home that a family had been living in for many years, all without ever receiving a spider bite."
"So that spider in your cupboard?" ESA asks. "Probably not a brown recluse. It's probably not carrying a disease. And it may have just killed a tick for you. So try saving a spider today, it's worth it."
The last time I saw a spider was on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. It was a jumping spider perched on an almond tree on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis. It had crossed paths with a winter ant (Prenolepis imparis). Neither wanted to be anyone's Valentine. Neither needed saving.
But I distinctly remember the other spiders I have seen and photographed in our pollinator garden. They didn't need saving, either.
Well, perhaps the prey needed saving...but everybody has to eat!
Like a winter ant. Or a jumping spider.
This winter ant, Prenolepis imparis (as identified by ant specialist Brendon Boudinot, a Ph.D. candidate in the Phil Ward lab in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology), was crawling along a branch of an almond tree last week on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, when it encountered...oops...a jumping spider (Salticidae).
"I'm sure that ant's fate was soon in the cold embrace of that cute spiders chelicerae," quipped entomologist Wade Spencer of the Lynn Kimsey lab, Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Not this time. No arthropods were harmed in the making of this photo.
Winter ants, says Boudinot, "have a lovely life history, being the only species specialized for activity during the 'dead' of winter." They're sometimes called "false honey ants." BugGuide.net calls this an "unfortunate name, since the storage product in the corpulent young workers of these ants is fatty, not sugary."
According to Ant Wiki, the winter ant "nests deep in the ground. It remains underground during the warmest months of the year, and in many parts of its range forages during times when the temperature is much cooler than other ant species will tolerate. Prenolepis imparis avoids competition with most ant species by not being active at the times of the year when other ants are most actively foraging."
Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you go hungry.
Take the case of the huge jumping spider (a female Phidippus audax or bold jumping spider, as identified by Wade Spencer of the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology) hanging out in our Spanish lavender. Hey, pretend I'm not here! It stealthily crawls up and down the stems, blending into the shadows. It summits the flowers, looking for bees. Where are the bees? Where is my dinner?
The predator and the prey. The hunter and the hunted. The jumping spider, with four pairs of eyes. The honey bee with five eyes (two large compound eyes and three smaller ocelli eyes). The jumping spider's bite is venom. The honey bee's sting is venom.
If they meet, it will be deadly. The spider will shoot venom in the bee, paralyzing it.
Meanwhile, the honey bees are buzzing from flower to flower, some oblivious to the dark shadow lurking near them. No ambush today.
Sometimes you go hungry.
On Valentine's Day, it's inaccurate to say that "everything is coming up roses."
Think jumping spiders on flowers. They come up, too.
Take that jumping spider (family Salticidae) perched on a red trumpetlike vine at the Benicia Marina, Solano County. It was not alone. Another jumper waited below. A suitor? An aggressor?
They oogled one another with their four pairs of eyes (all jumping spiders have four pairs of eyes), and then one oogled me and my camera.
"Don't take my picture."
And they vanished.
But a photograph of a jumping spider on a red flower is a good thing. Especially on Valentine's Day. And especially when you get a twofer (two-for-one).
Actually, it's not so unusual to have both "jumping spider" and "Valentine's Day" together in the same sentence: CBC News, Calgary, interviewed two spider enthusiasts for a piece on "Bondage, Gifts and Cannibalism: A Spider's Valentine's Day" published Feb. 12.
John and Kathleen Hancock of Pincher Creek, Alberta, related that Valentine's Day can be deadly when a female spider eats her suitor. (So said the people who acknowledged they once had 4,500 spiders living in a spare room of their home.)
"The male (spider) is a good meal and he is actually contributing to the growth of his offspring if she eats him," Kathleen said.
"There are a number of species of Australian jumping spiders that are absolutely fantastic," said John. "Each species of jumping spider has a different dance, and if he approaches the wrong female, she'll just eat him."
It helps to have the right moves, or "dinner and a movie" can just wind up as "A (bad) move and a (good) meal."
Stop and smell the roses.
Yes, we should all do that. We should take time out of our busy schedules to appreciate the beauty of nature, the beauty of roses, the beauty of a single yellow rose.
But sometimes there's a bonus in those roses, depending on whether you like jumping spiders or honey bees.
We spotted this little jumping spider (about the size of our little fingernail) on a yellow rose, "Sparkle and Shine," this morning. Tucked within the folds of the rose petals, the jumper looked like a tiny black spot, a period at the end of a sentence.
Nearby, honey bees foraged on other roses. They sparkled and they shined.
No arthropods were harmed in the making of these photos.