Arachnews: August 2019

This past month was very busy, as I have been making up for all the work I missed recovering from surgery. So this Arachnews is rather late. But, tons of great stuff! In this month’s edition: rainbow-faced spiders, the results of the Great Black Widow Race, the goods on that “climate change making spiders more aggressive” story, a scorpion-inspired pressure sensor, a new Portia paper, and more.

I’ve also changed the formatting up a bit. Links to the original papers are now posted at the end of each item, accompanied by Sci-Hub links unless they’re open access (marked with a 🔓️).

Introducing Arachnofiles

So I’ve joined a new group blog, Arachnofiles! We’re a bunch of spider fans (both arachnologists and amateurs) who are hoping to create some quality stories that go beyond the dreary “creepy-crawly, ugh” angle you see in mainstream media coverage and shed light on current research. You can find the latest Arachnews posts there. And there’s a lot more content, because now we’ve got a group spreadsheet for adding links, and it’s not just one lonely, non-scientist person’s Firefox bookmarks.

I’ll still post updates here when a new post goes up, but if you use Medium, you can also follow Arachnofiles and, uh, engage there. And if you come across any neat spider-related stuff, please send it my way!

Arachnews: April 2019

Featured image: the newly described jumping spider Uroballus carlei resembles a caterpillar. Credit: Stefan Obenauer, iNaturalist.

There’s satire, cake, molecular phylogeny, and more in this round-up of all things arachnid. This month is very jumping spider-heavy—but can you blame me?!

Continue reading Arachnews: April 2019

Nightmare Rectangle Round-up: Municipal Finance, Black Widows, Migrants, and More

Header: This image from Lisa Jackson’s Biidaaban depicts a decaying Toronto City Hall surrounded by forest, on the edge of a flooded Nathan Phillips Square.

Trying a bit of a new thing. I occasionally do linkdumps via Twitter threads, but I felt like doing something more permanent. Title inspired by this ever-relevant @TechnicallyRon tweet:

Continue reading Nightmare Rectangle Round-up: Municipal Finance, Black Widows, Migrants, and More

Winter Spider Diary

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So last November, I found dozens of tiny baby orbweavers in my bathroom. They were probably the offspring of the big grey cross spider who lived just outside the window, feeding on insects attracted to the building lights.

It was bad timing. Grey cross spiders do most of their courting and mating in the fall. The spiders guard their egg sacs into the winter, until they die. In spring, the babies emerge and go their separate ways. Most will die soon after; a lucky few will survive to continue the cycle. I don’t know why this batch hatched.

I painstakingly evicted at least a dozen, but the next day they were back. I decided to let nature take its course. Over the next few weeks, they gradually disappeared, to starvation or cannibalism or other insect predators. Then, one day, I saw one I’d missed. She had woven the tiniest of webs in the basil plant on the kitchen windowsill. All her siblings had died, but somehow she had made her way to this small oasis.

It was one thing to let the spiders starve to death when they were just black specks on the bathroom ceiling, but I felt a vague sense of responsibility to this lone survivor, and decided to keep her alive as long as I could.

Continue reading Winter Spider Diary