Thursday, June 28, 2012 • 3:20 PM Comments ()

Attack of the Mommy Spiders

posted by Amy Pybus

I've had a little bit of an entomological study going on here for the past year. Well I guess technically it's arachnology, since I'm obsessed with spiders.

But not just any spiders: Mommy spiders.

And definitely not the really horrifiyingly scary spider I found on the garage last summer. I knew I was being watched...turned around slowly...and there was the ugliest looking thing I'd ever seen. I told him, "I'll leave you alone if you leave me alone." A few weeks later someone sent me a picture of the dangerous brown recluse - yep. That was him.

Anyway. Last summer I dragged one of our pools out of storage and found this lady and her babies:

Normally I wouldn't care too much except for the slight guilt I'd feel at demolishing the egg sac while wiping the pool clean.

But then mommy did the craziest thing - she went totally nuts protecting that egg sac. She dashed over to it and started going back and forth over it as fast as she could, weaving more silk to hold it in place. I was seriously impressed. (I even took a video which I'm too tech-lame to upload.)

Now I couldn't demolish them. I scraped mom and her eggs off as carefully as I could and stuck them in the nearest shrub.

I wasn't sure if it was an aberration or if this was real, this incredible mama-bear instinct in a spider. But I kept my eyes peeled, and since then I've seen it happen at least five or six times.

I found this one on a spare kiddie chair, which I'd stored in the garage when too many people were fighting over it ("I want the reeeeeeeed chair! She took my chaaaaaaair!"). It's a little blurry (hey I took it on my cell phone with six kids yelling at me) but that smudge on the left is indeed a spider on her eggs.

So when I decided it was time to bring the red chair back I couldn't, because now it had babies.

And just yesterday, two more protective mothers that I found in the water table. Knowing what I know now I had to save them before setting up for playtime. I grabbed the nearest water toys, gently scraping one spider family into a yellow boat and the other into a blue star.

I went back later to check on them, and sure enough, both mamas were still faithfully guarding their eggs.

A little research shows all different kinds of maternal care in spiders, from laying their eggs and then just dying, to leaving them after they hatch, to eating them (or being eaten by them - WTH? That's gratitude for you). There is even one beast who carries dozens of them writhing around on her back and is, frankly, nauseating to look at.

I don't know what happens to the moms in my yard. But you gotta respect that moment of protection. I can relate. And so I carefully, lovingly, move any mama and egg sac that I find together.

Egg sacs alone - maybe not so much. But I couldn't think that I'd caused that anguish to any creature, especially when I can feel her pain.

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