Thursday, April 1, 2010

Predatorial Maternity (Read at Your Own Risk)

Side effects of reading this entry may include nausea, skin crawling, strange dreams, faintness of heart, and a tendency to question the sanity or femininity of the author. Proceed at your own risk.

One day while on my way home from work, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some cough drops for my sweet husband. I was dressed to the nines in cute pointy heels and a skirt. As I walked up to the cold medicine aisle, I noticed a woman squeal and run away. A teenage boy kept his distance from the object in question, but kept a watchful eye to make sure it didn't get away. His mother was talking to a woman who worked in the store, who in turn picked up the phone to request help to remove "it."

I walked up to "it," and stooped over to get a closer look while I heard the mother of the boy say, "I've never seen one so big!" There, cornered up against the edge of an aisle was a reasonably small wolf spider. I scooped him up in my hands, carried him outside of the store, and deposited him in a safe place away from the door.

The summer after I graduated from High School, I found a large hairy spider in my shower. I quickly ran to get a jar before it ran away, and slipped a piece of paper under the overturned mouth of the jar. Delighted, I examined the creature. It was remarkably furry, with stripes down its back, and it had an unusual conglomeration of eyes on its head. I showed it to my mom, who said she thought it was a wolf spider.

Thus began my education of the Wolf Spider. I deposited it in a terrarium with plenty of live plants, and tossed in a few dead insects, but it was not interested in dead insects. I later found a moth that was half alive, and suddenly the spider came to life! It stalked its prey like a true hunter, and in a flash, captured it in its jaws. I was so impressed that this little spider didn't want free food, it wanted to hunt!

Later, I noticed a white sack. Further study revealed that this sack of eggs was fastened to the Opisthosoma or abdomen via the spinnerets until they hatched. Now this is where it gets interesting, folks! I promise! Once the babies hatch, they crawl onto the mother's back, and remain there while she hunts for food, keeping them safe while at the same time teaching them to fend for themselves.

I don't recommend picking them up to play with them because they look a lot like Hobo spiders, which are poisonous to humans, but next time you find an ugly spider, take a closer look. It just might be a wolf spider, raised by its very own mama. Just so you get a good comparison between the two, here is a slideshow of Hobo Spiders. These you want to avoid like the plague, because a bite, well, if you want to know, look online. I am pretty sure I have exceeded my creep-factor limit for the day.

Be safe, but be fascinated that even big hairy spiders take care of their little ones.

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