Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wolves On Your Windowsill: Jumping Spiders

The Letter J is for Jumping Spiders

I saw a great little captioned image a few years ago.  It was this fuzzy wuzzy looking thing with great big eyes and lots of foofy furs and it was on this juicy looking green leaf or something.  I recognized it immediately as a picture of an exotic kind of jumping spider, and then my sappy little heart melted.

This is the original captioned image!
I found it!

I think of that image often in my daily life and I think that it has stayed with me because I'm squarely in the "aw" category.  But wait, I hate spiders.  OH MY GAWD I hate 'em.  Had some bad expeirences.  Sat on one.  The bitey kind.  Been startled by innumerable others.  Been horrified to find our beloved North American gems the Brown Recluse and the Black Widow were residing in useful little nooks in my house, in my garage, in a few shops in town, in shoes... you know...  where spiders belong.

Geh.  My skin is already crawling just thinking of that time at the visitors' center when I pulled back the fern leaf to see if I could find an outlet and BLAM there was this happy little nest and a big old B.W. the size of my thumbail just chillin' out and looking at me like I owed her money.


But let's move on to happier topics and lovelier climates.  Our little jumping spider has neither the gangle-some legs nor the marble-y butt of other spiders.  It's not one we grow up hearing about as kids...  or at least nobody tells horrifying campfire stories about common, household jumping spiders.(NB: Just to be clear, stories about spiders JUMPING abound.  Stories about jumping spiders... less so.)  They're simply too small to render much of a scare reflex, and they're usually gone too quickly to warrant much of a hunt-n-smash campaign.  They live in happy places: windowsills, bug screens with beautiful views behind them, lovely gardens and big old blossoms.  They're almost dainty, you know?  And some of their eyes are big, front-facing globes, so that's ALWAYS a bonus on the animal-kingdom-cute-ness-o'meter.   

These little munchkins are still covered in skitchy spider fur, but they have lots of it, so it's more like a wuzzy coat than some kind of, oh, I don't know...  yucky skin of evil.

Your average house-jumping-spider...  I mean, jumping spider of the house, and not spider who can jump houses...  your average little one is going to be black or brown and be built to pretty much vanish from view if you blink at the wrong time.  They're teeny.  They're compact.  They're fast as hell.  And they eat annoying fly-by bugs that plague our houseplants.  And they have about as much desire to bite people as people have to bite oil rigs.  By which I mean none at all. 

As the internet would have us believe: Salticidae/Phidippus audax has very good stereoscopic vision. This aids them when stalking prey, and allows some visual communication with others of their species, such as courting 'dances'.

There it is!  They dance! Add ten points to the cute-ness-o'meter! Jumping spiders are beautiful, too.  In the startlingly horrible way that spiders can be beautiful.  They excel at camoflague.  Again, in the startlingly horrible way that spiders can excel at camoflague. 

Crab spiders are kindof scary still with their big outstretched arms that beckon for a HUG-OF-DOOM!  Those gorgeous banana spiders out there in the tropics, well, those are too goddamned big.  The words "spider" and "bigger than your face" should never end up in the same sentence unless you're using them as ultimate proof of the Gods' mean-spirited moods during the creation.

Jumping spiders... are none of those things.  They're not "look at me" deadly like the recluse or the widow.  They're not "Imma' eat you feet first" horrifying like a tarantula or the funnel-webbers.  They're just speedy little bugs in the veranda.  Jumping spiders are happy to work for room and board and stay as clear of human intervention as possible, though they don't take it personally if you should occasionally happen to share the same square of sunlight.

If your house is overrun with them, that would be a problem.  Anything more than three sightings in a week is pretty alarming in my book.  But if you're of a mind to kindof get organic with the little biosphere you call your home I'd like to encourage you to resist the urge to smash these little ones.  If you see one basking in the sun on your wall or on the screen door, I encourage you to take a closer look.  They won't hurt you so long as you don't try to give them kisses and cuddles.  AND they will help keep your home gnat free.  They don't house train, but their poops are microscopic...  so at least there's that.

and now...  the closer look.  Ye faint of heart might want to look away.

The brave may press on and see the beautiful little hunters we live with.  (of course, they don't ALL look like this here in North America... but even the boring ones are SO pretty!) (the last image there is a hatchling.  awwww, he's such an adorable little badass mumfy-wumfy)


Francene Stanley said...

Great photos of spiders. Here in the UK, I don't encounter any harmful ones. If any should enter our home, they go about their business, eating insects that have no business there.

Jeremy [Retro] said...

great spiders.. i have been able in my life captured to spiders attacking each other... i entered it in a nature contest and didn't win because they wanted pretty nature not this... sadly it was a true nature contest i laughed.

Rowena said...

I hate spiders, had to skip over you pictures because they freaked me out!

Jenny said...

These are great pictures. Spiders do have their own unique beauty.

Have fun with A to Z!

Jenny at Choice City Native

Kristen Dyrr said...

I'm so afraid of spiders, but trying to lose that fear. I went ahead and made myself look at the photos, and got through them without squirming! :)

#atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

Poke The Rock said...

he looks so happy! I don't know why we are so scared or disgusted of spiders?Apparently if there was 5% more oxygen in the air insects would be much bigger...much much bigger, youtube told me so.

Karoline Fritz said...

Kristen, I'm so proud of you. I also loathe spiders and when the bigguns come out to play you'll see a me-shaped hole in the wall and a me-colored blur behind it. These little guys don't really fall into the same bucket though - so I'm glad you were able to... you know... get through it. :)

Karoline Fritz said...

Pokie: Thanks for the nightmares! EGAD!