I have decided to start a new, weekly feature* on my blog titled “SPIDERDAY!”. This will, fittingly, come on Saturday, and will be a bit of a round-up of stories about Arachnids from the previous week. I will include some images, links to neat Arachnid-themed blog posts and scientific papers, and bring other fun news about Arachnida. The pedants may be annoyed with “Spiderday” as a title to capture stories about all of the Arachnida (which includes mites, ticks, scorpions, harvestmen, etc.), but “Arachniday” doesn’t flow quite as nicely.
So, please enjoy, share, and let me know if you come across neat stories about Arachnids, and I will include them in next week’s Spiderday.
A long-jawed orb-web spider (Tetragnatha), by Sean McCann, reproduced here with permission.
Here are some things I pulled from the “web” this past week:
© C.M. Buddle (2015)
*I’m not new to doing ‘regular features’ – I ran Expiscor for many months on this blog, and then did Segments on SciLogs for a while. However, I think an Arachnid-themed regular feature will have more staying power, and is a niche that needs filling, with eight-legged greatness.
Earlier this week, Liz Langley posted a great piece about finding spiders hiding in your fruit. My interview with her was a little longer than what was posted, so I decided to post the full text here…
OMG THERE’s A GIANT VENOMOUS SPIDERS IN MY BANNANAS WHAT DO I DO?????
Imagine you spot a spider, or spiders, or hundreds of baby spiders tucked in with the bananas you recently brought home from the grocery store, or perhaps a black widow in some grapes. The media reports on this phenomena all the time, and the headlines dazzle us with images of dangerous spider lurking amongst our fruits and veggies. And some stories are downright ridiculous.
This is largely an exaggeration: although it’s true that spiders sometimes get shipped around the globe with our produce, it’s relatively rare. Just think of the hundreds of times you bought spider-less bananas! Spiders do live in crops around the world, and generally do good things when they are living in proximity to the foods we like to eat, as they are often important predators of economically important pests occurring in agro-ecosystems. However, they are good at hiding, and sometimes end up being carried along with our bananas or grapes and in this way they hitchhike around the globe.
A wandering spider that is sometimes found in fruit (photo by Sean McCann, reproduced here with permission)
So… if you do find a spider alongside your fruit… here are some Do’s and Don’ts:
- Don’t panic. The vast majority of spiders occurring in with our fruits are not dangerous, as a recent scientific study has shown.
- Don’t call the authorities or the media: There are bigger and more important things in the world than hitchhiking spiders. Spiders are our friends, doing good things in the world. They are not important enough to warrant notifying the authorities, or your local TV station. It’s easy to get carried away, especially if you see a spider with an egg sac, and perhaps the baby spiders all crowding around. But avoid the compulsion to feed the fires of arachnophobia. Stay calm, carry on. You may wish to call your grocery store, not to get angry, but rather to inform them that you found a spider with your fruits or vegetables. This will allow them to check for other critters in their produce section.
- Do isolate your fruit: take a step back, relax, and assess the situation. Ideally, grab a plastic bag or plastic container, place it over your fruit and spider, and gently place your fruit in an isolated area. Do this gently as to avoid crushing the spiders or the bananas. If you stick this package in your fridge, this will ‘slow down’ the spiders (they are cold-blooded critters, and thus are less active when cooled down). You will want your critter to slow down before you get to step #4.
- Do collect your spider: this may be beyond the comfort zone of many people, but it’s not that tricky to do, and it’s important. If the spider can be collected and/or photographed, it may be possible to get it identified properly. After your fruit has been cooled off in the fridge for a while, and the spider has been slowed down, you can collect the spider by ‘brushing’ it into a smaller container, perhaps a pill bottle or mason jar. Do this carefully, quickly and with confidence. You can also gently grab it with a smaller zip-lock bag (much like you would pick up dog feces). If you are very nervous, wear a pair of rubber gloves. If you are just too uncomfortable with ANY of this, you may just have to say goodbye to your bananas and stick them in the freezer along with their spider, and in that way you will kill the spider too.
- Do document your adventure: One your spider is in a container or zip-lock bag, it may be possible to photograph the spider, or at least compare it to images on a reputable website, such as Rick Vetter’s excellent website. However, be very, very cautious jumping to the conclusion that the spider is venomous. It’s tricky to identify spiders, and even arachnologists can struggle with the suite of species found in fruits. That being said, you could also contact your local museum, college or University and ask about whether someone there is willing to help you with your spider. There are also excellent resources through the American Arachnological Society:
- Don’t release your travelling spider into the wild: most likely you are dealing with a tropical species that just won’t live in the climates outside your house. It’s also risky to release spiders into a new environment as you don’t want to potential introduce something that doesn’t occur naturally in your backyard. And although it pains me to say this (as an arachnologist), the best course of action is to probably to kill the eight-legged cargo, and freezing it is probably the best strategy. Again, your local museum, college or university may want to see the specimens after the fact.
- Do enjoy your fruit: The spiders have not laid eggs in the fruit and provided you did a good look, everything is fine: wash your fruit, as normal, and enjoy. The spider is gone.
Bringing you another week of discoveries… Expiscor is here!
- Don’t believe me? Well here’s a photo from that blog post (reproduced here, with permission)
(photo copyright C. Ernst)
- The path of least resistance. A wonderful post about evolution, from Malcolm Campbell. I love this quote: “Evolution shows us that, contingent on the forces that shape them, paths of least resistance can lead to stunning innovation“
- Ok, I know you are now ready for a spider photograph, courtesy of Thomas Shahan (reproduced here, with permission)
Jumping spiders are the best.
- How Chris McCandless died – a more scientific take on some of the mystery surrounding his death in Alaska.
- And a spidery video to finish things off. So awesome:
After various trips and adventures, regular editions of Expiscor are back… Here are some discoveries from the past week! Hope you enjoy…
- Here’s a shot of doing Entomology on the tundra. Entomology Yoga, anyone?
#EntoYoga (photo by J. Wagner)
- For Academics (and those planning on being one…): It doesn’t get any easier. Sigh. That’s the truth (but it stays really, really fun!)
- Tweet of the week goes to Joshua Drew. Darn good advice!
- Snail trails. What a neat (and important) story. Here’s the video (check out at 3:08):
Here’s the 11th edition of Expiscor! Stories from nature and beyond.
I do apologize as this week’s edition is a little short (and probably contains a few errors)- mainly because I spent the weekend on my bike, doing the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. I’m moving a little slow today after that 360 km in a saddle. However, better some Expiscor than none at all, so here goes:
- Poor spiders. Always getting a bad name. even from the weather channel! Unnecessary hysteria, wrong facts, and NO spiders are poisonous (although some are venomous) (thanks to my spider-pal Sam Evans for that link)
- Speaking of venomous spiders, Rick Vetter had another paper out, showing AGAIN that spiders bites are exceedingly rare, and, (I quote): methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus as a ubiquitous cause of skin injury that is often mistaken as attributable to recluse bites.
- So many arthropods. Amazing. Ones that I would like to see again would be Trilobites. Too bad they are extinct. At least we have people like Glendon Mellow drawing stunning pictures of these amazing animals (thanks, Glendon, for permission to repost! – folks – see here for more amazing things from Glendon)
- Do you know about poison ivy? Can you identify it? Take this quiz. (it’s worth being educated on this topic!)
- Speaking of twitter, it brings me many, many smiles. Here’s the funny tweet of the week, from Jules Bristow (remind you of this?)
- Driving on the left? Drive on the right? Why the difference? Here’s a video to explain…
- Spider versus Ants. Guess who wins….
This week I am thrilled to report that two of my MSc students have successfully completed their degrees! Both the projects are part of the collaborative Northern Biodiversity Program – a project aimed to quantify and understand ecological change with Arthropods from Canada’s north.
A BIG congratulations to Sarah Loboda and Katie Sim – they are both tremendously talented students, excellent Arachnologists, and wonderful people to know. Last night we had our annual Lab BBQ – and at that event, I was pleased to give Sarah and Katie a small token of appreciation. Here’s a photo showing them both with their wolf spider photographs (photos by the incredible Thomas Shahan):
Katie Sim (left) and Sarah Loboda (right) – successful (& happy) MSc students!
Sarah Loboda’s thesis is titled Multi-scale patterns of ground-dwelling spider (Araneae) diversity in northern Canada. Her research focused on broad diversity patterns of ground-dwelling spiders collected from our 12 study sites, spread across Canada’s north. Our project spanned 30 degrees of latitude and 80 degrees of longitude –> yes that is a lot of land area! Sarah identified over 300 spider species from 14 families, and over 23,000 individuals. Publications are forthcoming so I won’t give details here, except to say that we can learn a lot about diversity patterns over broad spatial scales using a study taxon such as spiders.
Here’s where the Northern Biodiversity Program took our field teams.
Katie’s work (co-supervised by Prof. Terry Wheeler) had a different slant, but was still on Arctic spiders. Her thesis is titled: Genetic analysis of Pardosa wolf spiders (Araneae: Lycosidae) across the northern Nearctic. The first part of Katie’s thesis was about understanding the phylogeographic history of the Arctic spider Pardosa glacialis, with particular attention to post-glacial dispersal patterns, as inferred by population genetics. The second part of her thesis was focused on whether or not there is enough evidence to suggest two northern Pardosa species should remain as separate species, or be merged into one – based on both molecular and morphological characters. Let’s just say that Katie had to be a ‘field genius‘, ‘lab genius‘ and ‘spider genitalia genius‘. Here’s an example of what she looked at, a lot:
The epigynum of a wolf spider species, (part of) the topic of Katie’s research.
In sum, I am thrilled to see Sarah and Katie finish up their work, although their success also comes with a touch of sadness, as I will miss their daily presence in the laboratory. Stay tuned… we shall soon report all the details from their research.
Well, another week has passed. Perhaps you missed some neat links and stories? Here’s a list of some interesting things I have come across from small animals to big science. Enjoy! (oh, and Happy Memorial Day to my American friends and Happy Bank Holiday to those in the UK)
- The Wandering Leg Sausage. That’s a common name for a species of African millipede. It’s latin name is also nice (Crurifarcimen vagans), but doesn’t quite stir up the imagination in the same way (Thanks Derek Hennen for that link)
- Speaking of Latin names – Did you know that Carl Linnaeus’s birthday was on 23 May? Mark that in your calendar for next year!
- More about names – how about studying species without names? Here’s a post from the Lindo soil ecology lab at Western University (yes, that is the new name for a University that is not actually in the ‘west’ of Canada).
- Return of the Cicadas – this is really a stunning and beautiful video.
Return of the Cicadas from motionkicker on Vimeo.
- What’s up with all the caterpillars? If you live in some parts of Canada, you may be up to your neck in them… here’s a terrific post by Dezene Huber on the topic. (and he’s welcoming your questions!)
- More on Art, Design & Entomology from Bug Girl. (yes, those of you who are regular followers of Expiscor can see a pattern – Bug Girl is here a lot. And for good reason!)
- Blue Frogs. No, they are not sad. They are blue. A relative of mine asked about a blue treefrog she found in her backyard in Ontario. This got me into a fascinating discussion with my twitter pals (thanks in particular to Heidi, Germán, Rafael, and Kate!). Conclusion? Probably a rare “mutant” frog who may be missing the yellow pigment in its skin, resulting in blue colouration. Here’s a photo in case you aren’t convinced:
This is a Gray Treefrog that is blue. Photo © R. Dickson
- The most popular drink in Medieval Europe? I assumed wine or beer… no so!
- Living in the cold: some fascinating results out about high Arctic bacterium – and lab who published this work is just one floor up from me. Congrats to the McGill team!
- Fun with feathers – I visited the McGill Bird Observatory earlier this week. What a terrific resource – long-term monitoring of our winged friends is rather important and quite a suite of volunteers is helping to make this happen. A big thanks to Barbara Frei for letting me see the operations and help with a bit of data collection.
- Whiz, Bang, Beakers & Blankets! My wife’s business (Organic Quilt Company) has some new science / geeky fabrics in stock. Here’s a peek: