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Spiders

Some spider studies.

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image of Spiders

Jumpers

Jumping spiders may be the most easily identified with family of spiders. They're insatiably curious critters and smart too! Unlike many spiders, when you approach a jumper in a non-threatening way, you're likely to find yourself staring into a pair of inquisitive, if suspicious eyes. Jumpers have exceptional eyesight and are thus visually aware of the world around them, much as we are.

Friendly jumper #1

I first noticed this spider in the rabbit room sometime in early December. She had a habit of crawling around on the ceiling and sometimes on the door to the outside. I suspect she came in during the summer and got "stranded" inside. It may have saved her life - I believe the adults die off during the winter.

Once I tried to put her outside on a mild day. The ground was cool, but not nearly as cold as it normally was in Dec. Within a minute she had basically shut down and seemed unable to move. So I took her back in and returned her to the rabbit room.

A week or so later, I spotted her in the office, but she looked extremely hungry. Her abdomen was "deflated", and she was moving slowly. I decided to set her up in a terrarium and look after her. Or at least try to feed her before setting her free in the house again.

At the time, she was quite cooperative. I thought it was due to weakness from hunger. The first night, I tried feeding her one of the dead frozen insects I'd been keeping for the five-legged spider but she refused, spending her time hiding under a leaf. Next time though, she eagerly took the termite and spent a whole hour eating.

The following day she was active and very curious about everything, including my hand. I had little idea then just how much time she'd spend there.

2011-12-22 Thu
Spider ate a silverfish today but wasn't too interested in anything else.

As is natural for a jumping spider, she likes to chase moving food. Since I only feed bugs that I've found dead, I have to drag and shake them around with tweezers. She stalked the silverfish for almost a minute before making the pounce. When she does strike, you can actually feel the impact shake the tweezers!

Her stalking behaviour is really quite fascinating. Jumping spider hunting tactics have often been likened to those of cats, and with good reason! She is very cautious and strategic about it. Her eyes are usually fixed on her quarry, and she continually adjusts her angle of approach by moving sideways so as to try to attack it from behind. Sometimes she'll even use the terrain to her advantage, trying to hide behind leaves or get up on something to attack from above.

2011-12-23 Fri
I got a chance to get very close with the camera today. She was sitting on one of her leaves and seemed pretty fascinated by the lens. Reflection?

2011-12-26 Mon
Spider has been coming out daily and spending time on my hand. She is curious about everything and turns to face any motion, waving her palps about excitedly. Is that palp waving for smell?

Her basic pattern of activity seems to be to crawl around on my fingers for a minute or two, then make a couple of tours of the back of my hand, and then start climbing up my sleeve. She never tries to go into my sleeve though.

2012-01-05 Thu
Nothing much has changed, but I did take some shots today. Her daily routine seems to be established now. In the morning, she crawls around on the lid of her container, waiting for me to let her out. After touring the house on my hand and staring out one of the windows, she goes back and settles down under a leaf. She might poke her face out once or twice during the day, but mostly just rests. Then she gets active in the evening and I take her around again. Night time seems to be when she is most receptive to feeding, oddly enough. She eats a moderately large dead insect once every five days or so.

Interestingly, she seems to have no interest in jumping off my hand. Indeed, she has yet to do so and normally won't even leave when I offer her a place to go. Getting her off can sometimes be challenging, because she's very clever! My technique is to try to herd her onto a leaf by placing it in front of her, and gently nudging her toward it from behind. She knows what it's all about though, and moves sideways!

2012-01-13 Fri
For the first time, I found her in a "sleeping bag" structure. I know some jumping spiders make these to spend the night in.

2012-01-12 Thu
This is new. She ate part of a caterpillar today, but seems to have realized she doesn't need to chase her food now. This time, she just came up to the tweezers, grabbed the caterpillar, and walked off with it quite calmly.

2012-01-17 Tue
Spider has found a new toy! I thought she might want more things to do, so I offered her a conifer cone. It's a big one with well-spaced scales that are just the right size for a little spider to crawl between. It was an immediate success and she spent most of the rest of the day on/in it.

2012-01-20 Fri
She jumped onto my camera lens today while I was trying to take a shot of her on my thumb.

2012-01-23 Mon
We seem to be an extremely happy spider these days. I've noticed she gets very excited whenever something new happens. Today, she got to play with moss for the first time. Like the pinecone, which she plays on every day or two, it offered a great opportunity to practise gymnastics.

When she finishes playing, she runs off and tries to find some place high up. She usually likes to stay there for a bit before being taken away.

She doesn't seem interested in any of the other jumpers in the house.

2012-01-24 Tue
I tried feeding her the remains of a ground spider. They are little black critters with slender yellow-patterned abdomens. They move very fast. This one I found dead on the deck.

At first, she was curious and came scuttling over to investigate. When she saw it up close though, her behaviour changed completely! She seemed very excited by it, but also apprehensive. After creeping around to get at it from behind, she made a quick strike and then jumped back. Then she started moving in wobbly circles almost like a drunkard, continuing to stare at it.

She kept that up for a minute or so and then approached very cautiously and tapped it with her front legs. It seemed almost like she was going to eat it, but then suddenly she decided not to and left to go hide in some leaves.

2012-01-26 Thu
This isn't about the friendly spider, but I tried feeding the ground spider from my last entry to another one of the P. californicus spiders in the house and it exhibited almost exactly the same cautious behaviour. It made a quick strike followed by a lot of drunken wobbling, then made another strike, repeated the process, and then finally decided to eat. I wonder if this is some instinctive caution that these spiders know to take when faced with certain prey.

2012-01-31 Tue
Life has been pretty routine for the last week. She's continuing to find new ways to avoid being taken off my arm, such as scuttling between folds in the sleeve of my sweatshirt.

I got to see an interesting leg preening ritual today. She took each of her four front legs and ran them somewhere behind her palps. I'm not sure whether she was using the hairs on her palps to clean them or what. I should have paid closer attention to see if there was an order in which she cleaned her legs.

2012-02-05 Sun
Ha! For the first time, she ate apple today. Not very enthusiastically and just for a minute or so, but she did. Aside from that, she hasn't eaten in about a week. I don't know why; she seems perfectly healthy and active, though.

2012-02-08 Wed
New toy. I found a vacant snail shell a few days ago. It was inhabited recently I think, because it still smelled of decaying snail. It might have been eaten by a slug? Anyway, the spider is its new resident. She sits just inside its entrance, facing out.

I've noticed she's taken to "sleeping" more than before during times she would normally be active. I wonder if this is because she hasn't been eating.

2012-02-09 Thu
She ate today! A fairly large meal too. Some black bug that I found near the rabbit house. She rarely strikes at her food these days, though she does sometimes stalk it a bit.

2012-02-10 Fri
Another P. californicus took some apple today and completely filled up on it!

2012-02-14 Tue
I'm starting to worry about the spider now. She is just as friendly as ever, but she has slowed down I think. I don't know how long these spiders live, but I have heard that when they are getting older, they do gradually slow.

She is still reasonably active, just not as much as she used to be.

I took her outside for a bit today, but she didn't seem to like it much. She didn't want to get off my hand, and after a short while actually went into my sleeve to hide. She's never done that before.

2012-02-17 Fri
Today, she fell asleep on my wrist! After one of her tours of my hand and sleeve, she just plopped down. I call it sleep, because she was almost completely unresponsive and didn't even bother to track things moving around her. She stayed that way for about 20 minutes (during which time I did my best to keep my hand still) before waking up again.

2012-02-25 Sat
She seems slower and more quiet every week now. She hasn't been coming out much and I've been reluctant to disturb her. It's been a few days since she last ate and she wasn't very enthusiastic about it either. She doesn't seem to be able to climb the sides of her container like she used to so I've moved some stuff around to give her a way up.

2012-03-03 Sat
Nothing much has changed. She's still pretty subdued, but still expresses interest in some things. I haven't been able to get her to eat anything though. She doesn't even bother to consider larger food. Small things like the flies that hang out near the rabbit house are given more attention, but she still won't go for one.

2012-03-06 Tue
She ate!!! But not what I expected! The last couple of days I've been rather frantically trying everything I can think of in an effort to get her eating because she's been looking thin. None of the usual foods have worked, but I tried banana on her for the first time and she took to it with more enthusiasm than I've seen from her in a long time. She spent over an hour feeding on a little piece of it and by the time she was done, her abdomen was back to full size.

2012-03-08 Thu
Maybe I was worrying about nothing. She's much more active now and managed to climb up the side of her container for the first time in a while! Oddly, she's started trying to crawl into my sleeve though. She normally doesn't like it in there at all.

2012-03-10 Sat
She's started to slow down again unfortunately. She's still got a fairly full abdomen, so it's not hunger. She hasn't eaten anything since the banana, but it's only been a few days. This slowness only started yesterday so maybe it's just a passing phase. She's been hiding out in a tightly curled leaf so I haven't disturbed her.

2012-03-14 Wed
Spider's become very reclusive. She doesn't come out at all during the day and has only moved from her hiding spot once from what I know. I haven't taken her out for some days now since she doesn't seem to be in the mood. She hasn't eaten anything still, which is very odd by now. Due to her lethargy, perhaps, she still looks pretty full though.

2012-03-16 Fri
Unfortunately, I think the spider is dead now. I found her tonight clinging weakly to the underside of one of her leaves. I knew something was wrong because her abdomen was hanging limply. I took her onto my hand and she didn't move at all. I held her for a couple of minutes and then suddenly she had a spasm or something. She stretched out her legs and then waved a couple of them around. Then she curled them in and that was the last movement I saw. I held her for a while longer, but eventually put her back on her leaf and went to bed.

The next morning, she hadn't moved and was still curled up. Spiders extend their legs by hydraulic pressure but contract them by muscle power which is why their legs are often curled in when they die.

It's now night again and still no sign of movement. I'm pretty sure she's dead. It's a strange feeling, not having her around. She was one of the most unique creatures I've ever known.