Spider Book!

WE are excited. The “We” is me and Eleanor Spicer Rice, of Buzz Hoot Roar fame, and author of the incredible e-books about ants.

Here’s the really big news…

We are teaming up with The University of Chicago Press, and writing a book about spiders!

Lynx spider! Photo by Sean McCann, reproduced here with permission

Lynx spider! Photo by Sean McCann, reproduced here with permission

There are already some really amazing spider books out there – one of our favourites is Rich Bradley’s gem, Common Spiders of North America: it’s beautifully illustrated, rich and in-depth. For those looking to cuddle up with a microscope, there is “Spiders of North America: an identification manual“: that book can unleash your inner taxonomist and help you identify (to genus) most spiders of the region. There are also some regional field guides about spiders, photography books, and detailed books about spider silk, or about general spider biology.

However, more books about spiders are needed! There is so much to say! These amazing arachnids are one of the most diverse groups of animals on the planet, with about 40,000 known species. They have the most unusual courtship and mating behaviours, and are often misunderstood, eliciting fear and loathing due to unwarranted fears about spider bites. Fundamentally, spiders are our friends and our goal with this project is to help share a fascination and love of these eight-legged marvels. We want all people to be familiar with the spiders they most commonly encounter, and when they bump into spiders as they move about the world, they’ll see friends and familiar faces instead of fangs. We want our book to be a non-technical primer of spiders and our goal is to bring awe and wonder, dispel myths, and help create an entire generation of arachnophiles. We hope to reach as broad an audience as possible, and teaming with University of Chicago Press will certainly help with this.

Our project will share stories about some of the most common spiders you will find in North America. Much like Eleanor’s ant books, we will research (using the primary literature) the life history and biology of common spiders in North America, and weave the science into a narrative about the species. We will unpack their biology, and write about spiders using accessible language. We’ll team up with our favourite photographers, and stunning images will accompany the text. Our hopes are that this book will complement the other books out there, and provide readers an accessible and fun-filled glimpse into the fascinating world of spiders.

An awesome Phidippus spider. Photo by Sean McCann, reproduced here with permission

An awesome Phidippus spider. Photo by Sean McCann, reproduced here with permission

Calling all Arachnologists!

We can’t do this project alone and WE WANT YOU! This project will be bigger and better with your help. Although we would love to include ALL the common spiders in our backyards, local forests and fields, this would make the project a little too big… so we need to narrow down to a reasonable number of species. So, we would like to know what species you want to read about.

Do you want a chapter about the glorious Black-and-yellow garden spiders?

What about the Zebra spiders?

Surely you would like to hear more about black widows?

Please provide us some feedback in the comment section, below. Tell us what you want to read about, and what aspects of spider biology must be included in our book. We will take your feedback seriously and try to include your suggestions.

Surely you want to know more about these lovely Black Widow spiders? Photo by Sean McCann, reproduced here with permission

Surely you want to know more about these lovely Black Widow spiders? Photo by Sean McCann, reproduced here with permission

Needless to say, we are SUPER excited about this project, and those of you that know us are already aware that we super-enthusiastic people to begin with, so this project has taken things to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL OF EXCITEMENT!!! We are so thankful for University of Chicago Press for the opportunity to tackle this project, and are already quick out of the starting gate: we have an upcoming writing retreat planned in March, and have already drafted some chapters. And in the coming months, we will certainly keep you updated on progress. We do hope you are as eager as us to see the finished project hit the bookshelves.

Spiderly, yours,

Chris & Eleanor



15 thoughts on “Spider Book!

  1. I think there should be a discussion of Tegenaria agrestis. Here in Montana I find myself regularly explaining that there has been no confirmed account of a hobo in Montana, and that many less scrupulous exterminators will call any funnel web a hobo in order to get a job.

  2. Not an arachnologist but an avid gardener. I’d like to know more about the groups I commonly see – wolf spiders, jumping spiders, crab spiders and orb weavers. So excited about this project!

  3. I am very much looking forward to this book! I have many holes in my understanding of spider behavior that maybe you’ll find opportunity to address. One big hole is what life is like for spiders that wander to hunt. Lycosids or corinnids, for example. Do they all live similarly to salticids? Do they all make maps of their worlds and return to retreats? Spiders that trap with webs rarely go anywhere, so I’ve watched them for hours and have a sense of how they live.

    Also, how do adult males find females, particularly for uncommon species? I understand pheromones can be involved and that some females leave pheromone-laden dragline for males to find and follow. But what about arboreal species or orbweavers? Normally they travel around by letting the wind carry them or their travel lines whichever way the wind is blowing. How can they directionally locate a female? And do so within their short lifespans?

    Here’s another thing I ponder. Spiders live in a difficult world. Many things will prey on them or parasitize them. It’s like having to do your daily shopping among terrorists. They don’t try to shut the world down or hide themselves until they starve. They go about their business anyway. What is it that spiders do (or not do) that helps them to thrive in such a world? For example, aside from spiders that see well, do they generally have a special way to deal with other spiders?

    It would also be good to further embellish my understanding of common and conspicuous species, because the more the general public knows about the spiders they are used to seeing, the more they will care about spiders. I’m glad you’re thinking about common species and North American species rather than just the conventionally interesting ones such as Portia.

    If you cover Argiope or Nephila, you might also mention Argyrodes. They are common on established webs in the south. Everybody seems to miss them, and everybody is thrilled to learn about them. It gives people something to do with every new web they see.

  4. Good luck – I had a book writing phase in the 1990s but the British academic system does not reward writing books the same way as it does producing primary publications so am now waiting for retirement to get all my projects of the back burner 😉

  5. This project is a great idea! How about including a spider that mimics other species (e.g. Synageles idahoanus, which mimics ants). Mimicry (morphological and behavioral) is a fascinating subject, and I find that it really catches people’s attention when they are learning about spiders. Thanks!

  6. Hi Chris,

    number me among your future readers! Now, as you asked for suggestions, how about a book between a field guide and a text book on spider behaviour? You could pick some interesting species and use them to illustrate contemporary research. And don’t forget to write about your own research, I’m sure readers will honor your enthusiasm. Don’t shy away from depth, there are enough children’s books on spiders out there (though this is really not a bad thing). Technical terms can be looked up within seconds on Google. Herberstein’s “Spider Behaviour” is a fine example in this regard, but you could structure your book more from the species side instead of the behaviour side, I guess that would make it a more “vivid” lecture.
    Don’t forget to put many, many photographs in your book, each spider should earn at least 2-3 perspectives to facilitate identification and let us appreciate it more.

    OK, finally here are some special personal wishes regarding families:
    – Salticids and their intriguing intelligence (being not a pro in the field I’m allowed to call it that 🙂 ).
    – Lycosids & Pisaurids (Dolomedes in particular, you have such beautiful fishing spiders in northern America).
    – Synanthropic species – which cute spiders can be found in your homes and gardens?
    – Adventive species – where did they come from and when? (Most of the species found in houses here in Germany are adventive species nowadays. And changing so fast! Over the last 15 years or so one could e.g. observe Tegenaria atrica literally being thrown out of the house by Pholcus phalangioides!)

    If I can be of any help, e.g. with reviews from a laypersons perspective… let me know.

    Best wishes,

  7. Pingback: Buzz Hoot Roar – Spider book update: Help us pick our species!

  8. Pingback: Spider book update: Help us pick our species! | Arthropod Ecology

  9. Pingback: Spider book update: Help us pick our species! | Arthropod Ecology

  10. This is a great project! My interest is great but I am a beginner (and books to help me identify the spiders in my backyard (Quebec) are hard to find…my interest would be (besides the spiders in my yard) in an illustrated book that would cover large families of spiders across the world (namely central america and western africa where I sometime go to work). If you have suggestion, please let me know…

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