Crowdfunding black widow research

For the past six months, Sean and I have been spending most of our nights observing black widows in their natural habitat on Vancouver Island, BC. We did a couple of short experiments during our time in the field, but the vast majority of our work involved simply observing the spiders as they went about their business. The goal was to get a better understanding of the natural behaviour and mating dynamics of this population.…

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Spider Week on pause

You may have noticed that Spider Week has lost some steam here and on twitter. It was a fun idea that came at a time when I probably should have realized I already had a bit too much on my plate. Then more things got piled on, and I started to get sick. For now, spider week is on pause, but please expect posts on the remaining five spiders sometime soon! False widows in the genus…

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Fishing spiders (family Pisauridae)

Today’s featured spiders for Spider Week are the fishing spiders (also known as raft spiders) in the genus Dolomedes. I suspect the reason they are so often mistaken for brown recluse spiders is that they are (a) brown, and (b) often very large. Brown recluse spiders aren’t particularly large, but folks seem to (erroneously) associate size with danger when it comes to spiders. A large female Dolomedes tenebrosus from southern Ontario. Photo: Sean McCann, used with permission.…

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Yellow sac spiders (family Eutichuridae)

The first spider of spider week, squeezing into the 7th-most-likely-to-be-misidentified-as-a-brown-recluse spot (despite not even being brown), is the yellow sac spider. This common name may be used to refer to multiple similar-looking species in the genus Cheiracanthium (family Eutichuridae). Cheiracanthium inclusum (female). Photo: Joe Lapp (also known as Spider Joe), used with permission. In North America we have two species: Cheiracanthium inclusum (a native species) and  C. mildei (introduced from Europe). Other names for yellow sac spiders include black-footed…

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Announcing Spider Week

Starting tomorrow, Shark Week begins on the Discovery Channel. If you prefer spiders to sharks (which, of course you do, right?!) and facts to fearmongering, here at Spider Bytes and on twitter we’ll be celebrating #SpiderWeek! Here’s the plan: starting tomorrow (Sunday June 19), each day will feature a different spider family. These seven families will be chosen from among the most-misidentified spiders on twitter, based on the data I collected last year from my first several months…

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Zora & Syspira: wolf-like prowling spiders

Did you ever come across one of the most beautiful wolf spiders you’ve ever seen, only to realize that it’s not a wolf spider at all, because the eyes are all wrong? And if it’s not a wolf spider then what the heck is it because it doesn’t look like a spider from any of the other spider families you’re familiar with? No? Well, I had this experience recently. Twice, actually. The first time it…

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Rhomphaea: ridiculously long theridiids

Male Rhomphaea fictilium – a theridiid with a ridiculously long abdomen and pedipalps! Photo: Al Denesbeck (used with permission). I’ve written about long spiders before: the “stretch spiders” in the family Tetragnathidae (long-jawed orb-weavers) are notable for their elongated bodies as well as their long jaws. When I first spotted Rhomphaea, I thought it might be a tetragnathid, before taking a closer look and realizing it must be something else entirely. As it turns out, Rhomphaea…

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Oecobiidae

Last week one of my undergraduate labmates found a tiny “free-range” spider running along the wall of one of the basement rearing rooms where we keep our black widows at UTSC. We regularly find common house-dwelling spiders (most often false widows, Steatoda grossa) in the rearing facility because we also keep a large supply of fruit flies and crickets to use as spider food, some of which inevitably escape and thus make it a prey-rich…

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A quick survey

Dear readers, I’ve teamed up with Science Borealis, Dr. Paige Jarreau from Louisiana State University and 20 other Canadian science bloggers, to conduct a broad survey of Canadian science blog readers. Together we are trying to find out who reads science blogs in Canada, where they come from, whether Canadian-specific content is important to them and where they go for trustworthy, accurate science news and information. Your feedback will also help me learn more about…

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Myrmecophilic spiders

Note: All photos in this post are copyright Sean McCann. Yesterday, for the final day of Arachtober, Sean and I went to Tommy Thompson park in Toronto to look for some autumn arachnids and other arthropods. Sean was very excited when he turned over a rock and found a nest of acrobat ants, Crematogaster cerasi. The genus Crematogaster is mainly tropical, and we didn’t have them back in BC, so it was a pretty cool find for us. Then we took…

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