I have fought a grizzly bear,
Tracked a cobra to its lair,
Killed a crocodile who dared to cross my path;
But the thing I really dread
When I've just got out of bed
Is to find that there's a spider in the bath...
~Michael Flanders and Donald Swann: Driven to It - By the Spider in the Bath
I have always enjoyed my encounters with tarantulas in New Mexico. They're big, easy to see, furry, and they don't usually move too fast. Well, there was that one guy that chased me out onto a road, but that only happened once. Now that I think about it, that is probably the reason why all the shoes (and feet) you see in these photos belong to my brave sister, Auntie Bucksnort.
I recently read somewhere that you are always within three feet of a spider. Wow, that one kind of stayed with me (and had me looking over my shoulder, not to mention under my pillow), and I set out to see if I could find any support for the statement. Here are some of the facts about spiders that I found along the way:
The tarantula isn't poisonous. It's bite is usually no worse than a bee sting.
A spider's silk is made of protein. The spider will eat the used silk of an old web before spinning a new one.
A spider is printed on the American one-dollar bill. You'll have to read Seven Fun Facts About Spiders to find out exactly where.
It is estimated that up to one million spiders live in/on an acre of land, and in the tropics, this number might approach 3 million.
Hummingbirds use the silk from spider webs to weave together their nests.
According to Spiders of the Arid Southwest, the areas encompassed by New Mexico, West Texas, and Arizona have over 1000 species of spiders, the most dangerous to humans being the black widows, brown widows, and violin spiders. (Note: At least I think that's what they said--their writers need to undergo some sort of clarification training. I felt that I was going in circles trying to figure out which areas they were talking about and which spiders were where, etc. I'm pretty sure the authors were researchers first and writers second. No disrespect intended, but I was having a hard time wading through the paragraphs, and a little judicious editing would help make this a great resource for the rest of us).
About that statement that there is always a spider within a yard of where you are--according to Spider Myths author Rod Crawford of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle, this myth probably came about because of arachnologist Norman Platnick's unguarded statement that "Wherever you sit as you read these lines, a spider is probably no more than a few yards away." You can read more of what Crawford has to say here.
About the photos:
The first two were taken by me, and the third was taken by Auntie Bucksnort. All have appeared on this blog before (as linked).
Top: Tarantula on the road to Tucumcari
Middle: The same spider, patting Bucksnort's brave shoe
Bottom: Bathroom door guard tarantula at Bottomless Lakes Campground
New Mexico State University, College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences: Spiders of the Arid Southwest.