Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fishing Spider

This beautifully patterned spider is a Fishing Spider in the family Dolomedes. They earn their name fishing spider from their preferred habitat near water. They are often seen along the shore of lakes and ponds where they rest their front legs on the surface of the water waiting for vibrations that will alert them to possible prey nearby. They are able to dart out across the water and grab unsuspecting aquatic insects. Some reports indicate that they may also capture small fish when the opportunity arises.

It is not uncommon to find these spiders quite a distance from water, in fact, the species pictured here is more commonly associated with moist woodland areas where they climb trees. Their color provides perfect camouflage against the bark of various trees. They are also found in homes upon occasion. I have one that currently lives in our basement. I've given her the name Sadie and actually find myself looking for her when I do laundry. I prefer to co-exist with this gorgeous beast and appreciate the hard work she is doing in the form of insect control than to kill her needlessly.

These are a large spider that somewhat resemble Wolf spiders. In fact many people who encounter these spiders mistake them for wolf spiders. They may reach legspans up to 4 inches, which is quite large for a spider. Average body length varies from 15 to 26 millimeters....males are smaller at 7 to 13 millimeters. They are brownish-gray with lighter brown and black markings. Some specimens have a pinkish tint on their abdomen. The legs are banded black and brown.

Mating takes place in spring soon after hibernation. The female will form an egg sac sometime in June that she will carry with her. This maternal care helps guarantee that the spiderlings will hatch and get the best start possible free from predation. Egg sacs may contain up to 1000 individual spiderlings and hatch sometime between July and September. The young spiders will overwinter under the bark of trees, under logs, or rocks or in leaf litter. When spring arrives the cycle starts over.

While these spiders are large they are not aggressive. They are more likely to flee than stand their ground. Bites typically occur when they are mishandled. The bite is no more severe than a bee sting, however if you are allergic to bee venom or spider venom possible serious reactions can occur.

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