Web Building Spiders

Gavin “They’re Not Insects They’re Arachnids” Pitts joins us in studio for our epic micro-series on spiders. First up: the weird and wonderful world of web-building spiders, including the brown recluse and black widow. Plus news, pop culture and a spider pop quiz!

Music: “Slipstream” by Syd Dale



18 Responses

  1. Saw the biggest spider in Canada last summer -the dock spider – so named because they are semi- aquatic. My 10-year-old son put on his life jacket and the monster was on it. It crawled onto his shoulder and he screamed and brushed it off into the water where it magically scampered away across the lily pads. No lie, it was as big as my hand. Luckily, they are non-poisonous and don’t bite. Still quite the shock, though.

  2. Another movie (even though it was terrible) that featured spiders was “Eight Legged Freaks”.

    Its not the best movie, but Scarlett Johansson was in it so it’s watchable.

  3. Great episode. Can’t wait for Hunting Spiders – a holiday treat. I have a question for Gavin. While working in Benin, West Africa there was a spider that was veeery hairy, a bit smaller than the palm of my hand, and had the nickname of “l’araignée taxi-brousse” or bush taxi spider, because the story went that he would sometimes carry a scorpion on his back, just for kicks. This spider moved very sporadically, running in random directions. I encountered one in my living room once, and ended up doing a 60 second high-kicking dance just to keep out of his way. Do you have any idea what spider this is? Google has not been much help.

  4. As a web developer, when I first read the title of the episode I first thought of the “spiders” that crawl web pages when search engines index them.

    Then I realized there is obviously nothing caustic about that lol.

  5. More popular culture: the song “Everyone Else Had Has More Sex Than Me” by Tism, the video for which got very popular on the internet back in 2005, mentions orb weaver spiders.

    “All loves have to die – of that there’s no help.
    My favorite way to end up
    Is the orb weaver spider’s, when his pedipalp
    Enters the female pudendum.

    Then dies on the spot his corpse there still stuck,
    Left for his rivals to curse it.
    He would rather die than not get to f***;
    Personally, I reckon it’s worth it.”

  6. Skin crawlingly good guys thanks.
    I had no idea that spiders lived so long!

    This episode, and particularly the reading from the book where giant spiders conquer Australia, puts me in mind of mystery science theater and the Giant Spider Invasion!
    Where spiders are mutated by cosmic rays from a fallen meteorite and grow to the size of a VW beetle…… also the shape of a VW beetle and indeed start leaving tyre tracks like VW Beatles.
    Yes this was the movie where the director famously constructed his giant monster movie spider around a car and had it slowly driven after a fleeing crowd of baseball players.
    If the inaccuracies of Arachnophobia annoyed Gavin he would do well to take some powerful sedatives before attempting to view this one.

    Out back of my house there lives a spider.
    I have never encountered him in person mind you merely his handy work.
    Each day I leave for work and walk down the narrow path between the garden fences and a single strand of spiders webbing catches me mid forehead before stretching and snapping under the force of my advance.
    Every day the strand is in the exact same place and it may well just be my imagination but it seems to me that each time it is a little thicker.
    I like to imagine that concealed somewhere near by is a spider of singular ambition who, Wil E Coyote style, is utterly convinced that this time that today is the day his cunning trap will succeed.
    Tomorrow I’m going to try flailing around on the garden path and see if I can draw him out….

  7. also in roleplaying games: White Wolf’s ‘(Old) World of Darkness’ game system/setting had web-weaving spiders feature very prominently in the spirit world. Cosmologically the embodiment of Order was the spider-like entity called the Weaver who gave permanent shape to its sibling’s -the Wyld- creation until it’s other sibling -the Wyrm- would consume anything that outlived its purpose. Weaver spirits in the spirit world were often spider-themed, and any place where there were people and civilization would be blanketed in the webs of Pattern Spiders that could catch and calcify any being interfering with the Weavers unending spinning, or in the newer spirit realm of the Cyberweb where Net Spiders greedily snatched up any stray data or unwary travellers that came to close.
    The (New) World of Darkness uses a different cosmology, and likes to keep spirit hierarchies more nebulous, so there a spider spirit is likely, but not always, a totemic spirit of spiders.
    White Wolf would use spiders again in it’s epic techno-fantasy game, Exalted, where Pattern Spiders worked the Loom of Fate that maintained the intgrity of Creation at the direction of the Five Maidens of Destiny.

  8. One correction about Golden Orb Weavers. On the show it was mentioned their webs are up to 1.5 m across. Um… not even close. A couple of years ago in South Australia there must have been some sort of drunken Orb Weaver orgy as their numbers skyrocketed, especially in the outback. Whilst competing at orienteering (involves running through the bush frequently glancing down at a map or compass) in the mid north of South Australia we were routinely running into hand size spiders with their webs strung between trees. There were *many* webs roughly 3- 5m across (so 9-15′) and pretty much everyone had a few face to face encounters with spiders whose abdomen was the size of golf ball. Very pretty spiders and very pretty golden *strong* webs but after running around and through them for about an hour the trauma was starting to set it. When you ran into them it was like running into a web of fishing line, followed by a panic as you pattered yourself down looking for the #ucking spider. This occurred in a few places around the state and we even had one at home in suburbia which routinely built a 3m web across the driveway, presumably trying to catch and eat the juicy things inside the can on wheels. After a while it was relocated to a neighbors yard.

    1. I could have sworn seeing a doco on Western Australia when I was young referring to some Golden Orb Weaver webs getting to tens of metres wide out bush.

      I had about 17 garden spiders of some variety (squat green body with red and white markings on the back – had no luck identifying it) collectible span my backyard a few years back. I’m afraid they met a miserable end when there were that many. I was okay with half a dozen spread out, but not nearly twenty all together.

  9. Can someone tell me why spiders go nuts building massive webs everywhere when we get a temperature spike? We’ve had a couple of days around 40C and now they’re everywhere!

  10. Feces? Fine. Infanticide? No problem. You could have someone cutting out their own fetus and eating it, and I would be unphased. As an admitted arachnophobe, this was the hardest episode to get through. I suspect the next installment of hunting spiders will be the same way. My skin was prickly and crawling through the whole episode.

    I know the fear is irrational, but I can’t manage to fully defeat it via sheer force of will. I can occasionally suppress the fear in specific occasions, generally by focusing on anger toward the spider instead. But my mind just won’t allow me to like spiders. When you talked about the black widow bite feeling like a pin prick, I felt a prick on my leg. When you mentioned dizziness, my world started to spin.

    This has been the first time that I couldn’t get behind Gavin calling a creepy crawly cute. As a scientist (although admittedly a chemist rather than a biologist) I do have a certain appreciation for many different arthropods. But Gavin and I differ significantly with regards to spiders. It’s a shame too because up to this point he was the front runner for my favorite guesspert. I might have to rethink my preferences…

    But still, another great episode. I’ll have to take a night to steel my nerves before braving the next part.