mostlythemarsh:The Waiting Game

Sunday, May 14th, 2017


The Waiting Game

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Alexandra Petri on Twitter: “here are those spiders you were promised”

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Alexandra Petri on Twitter: “here are those spiders you were promised”:

Warning: linked piece features a large photograph of a newly discovered South American spider

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Alexandra Petri on Twitter: “here are those spiders you were promised”

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Alexandra Petri on Twitter: “here are those spiders you were promised”

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spiders-spiders-spiders: jumping spider by Jimmy Kong on…

Monday, February 13th, 2017


jumping spider by Jimmy Kong on Flickr

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senator-awesomesause: buggirl: I think this is a powerful…

Monday, August 15th, 2016



I think this is a powerful message.

Although, I don’t agree with labeling recluse as “murderous”- and the implied message that black widows would also be an exception to the heartfelt message.  

(I’m not sure of the source)

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that neither the poem, nor the comment above were written by people who grew up in Australia.

I think you’re probably right about that. The poem is by Nikki Giovanni; she and @buggirl are both American. (Well, Giovanni definitely is, and Andrea I believe to be, though I don’t actually know where she grew up.)

I’ve seen commentary that expresses a similar sentiment to the poem’s and to Andrea’s about the purported deadliness of Aussie fauna. That is, I’ve seen people assert that for all that the country does have venomous species, the risk to humans from Australian wildlife tends to be vastly overstated for humorous/hyperbolic effect. But I’ve never been there, nor researched the question in depth.

I can say, though, that largely as a result of Andrea’s influence I no longer feel compelled to smush the black widows in my garage, and at least so far it’s working out fine for both me and the spiders.

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tarantulajelly: If you’ve known me for two seconds, you know I…

Monday, July 4th, 2016


If you’ve known me for two seconds, you know I love, L O V E jumping spiders.  They’re the cutest little things and so attentive.  I love to watch them watching me, you can see them actively trying to figure things out.  This little dude is a Phidippus audax, or Bold Jumping Spider.  I’ve named it Sprite :D. 

I’ve already enjoyed the heck out of watching it get around.  Seriously, if you get a chance to watch a jumping spider, give it a shot, they’re entertaining little buggers.  In this photo, it was leaning down to watch my fingers as they stabilized my camera on the countertop :).

In reference to the person who asked yesterday, another huge difference between P. audax and P. regius is size.  P. regius easily dwarfs P. audax, with P. regius being the largest species of jumper in the Eastern US.  It can still be difficult to tell them apart when they’re still tiny little slings, though.  As the name implies, what these guys lack in size, they make up for in personality.

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jumpingjacktrash: spiders-spiders-spiders: Dolomedes (Fishing…

Thursday, March 17th, 2016



Dolomedes (Fishing Spider)

photo by Charlie J on Flickr

fishing spiders are SO COOL. i don’t think they’re as cute as a lot of other spiders, but they are really clever and fun to watch. we get a lot of them along the cannon river here in southern minnesota, i like to hang out on the river bank and watch them hunt minnows and tadpoles.

they’re also really mellow about humans, at least if you move slow and don’t come from above like a predatory bird would do. i’ve picked them up and had them walk on my hands a bunch of times and never got nipped.

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Oh jeez- I’ve handled so many so often that I have developed an allergy to some tarantulas. In Ecuador alone, I’ve handled hundreds of individuals. In addition, in the lab I hold the same individuals over and over again- hundreds of times- so I guess if I had to say how many times have I had a spider in my hand? Idk- 2000? ha. No clue. but a lot more than most people. I man-handled that poor little guy- I try not to do that often but like I said he was escaping!

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

So, of the estimated 2000 times buggirl​ has handled spiders with her bare hands (ranging from completely harmless species to black widows), she has been bitten exactly twice, each time when she was trying to hastily impose her will on an agitated captive. So it’s a 0.1% risk of her being bitten in any given spider-handling scenario.

Good to know.

Side note: In looking through some black-widow-handling YouTube videos, the comments were predictably YouTube-ian. But there also was this exchange, which made me laugh:


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kas-e: Phidippus Mystaceus

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014


Phidippus Mystaceus

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buggirl: A more appropriate spider ID chart than the ignorant…

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014


A more appropriate spider ID chart than the ignorant meme floating around (the ignorant one has the words “smash it” underneath all the beneficial spider photos). 

Respect nature, even the 8 legged. 

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A Charley Eiseman appreciation post Charley Eiseman is the…

Monday, September 15th, 2014

A Charley Eiseman appreciation post

Charley Eiseman is the principal author of Tracks and Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates. If you’ve been following my blog long enough you already know what an awesome book it is. But maybe you don’t know what an awesome person Charley is.

I mentioned earlier today that I’d found an object in the salt marsh yesterday that I thought might be a spider egg sac, and that I was planning to upload a photo of it to to see if someone (which usually means Charley, for an image like that) could help identify it.

I uploaded the image at 2:18 p.m.

Charley’s comment with a tentative ID was posted at 2:20 p.m.

This is not the first time this has happened.

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buggirl: Thank you, Lintouse for your generous donation towards…

Friday, August 29th, 2014


Thank you, Lintouse for your generous donation towards my research!  Here is a Saturniid Moth since they are your favorite.  Also, I LOVE that backpack you made!  So awesome! 

Rothschild Silk Moth, Mindo, Ecuador

Pledge a dollar to women in science here!

Guess who’s going back to the Amazon?

That’s right! buggirl‘s going back to the Amazon. Yay!

In tangentially related news, I spent some quality time with this little lady in the garage yesterday:

She was perfectly amiable. I didn’t touch her, but I sat next to her for a while and at one point gave her a nudge with the corner of my phone to see how she’d react. She just shifted over a little.

At no point did I crush, squash, dismember, or mutilate her. When I checked back later she’d moved off into some dark recess.

It’s a little weird to navigate this boundary. Until recently I was a squash-all-black-widows-on-sight person, and this behavior of mine would have seemed thoroughly irrational. It still feels odd, and subject to an undercurrent of lingering arachnophobia.

Anyway. Baby steps.

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kas-e: Phidippus Regius

Sunday, August 10th, 2014


Phidippus Regius

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buggirl: I recently posted a photo such as this, where I’m…

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


I recently posted a photo such as this, where I’m holding Linda the Black Widow,  on my blog and the comments coming in are kinda cracking me up.

Here are a few:

what is photoshop”-

Well, if you knew me personally, you’d understand why this is funny.  I am so computer illiterate I could never use photoshop- you’re lucky I know how to use tumblr…. Also, if you follow me, you know I hold all things “creepy” on a regular basis.

this bitch really let a venomous spider bite her trying to be cute

Apparently, I’m a bitch?  And who said Linda bit me?  I didn’t!  Black Widows are extremely shy and non-aggressive.  They are nothing to be afraid of, like any animal, if treated with respect (which usually means just leave it alone) and not threatened, they will not feel the need to defend themselves.  I was not “trying to be cute”..  The point of this blog is to educate others about the natural world.  Me holding a venomous beneficial black widow reinforces the point- most of the negative feelings people have towards spiders are based on irrational fear.

Now they call her rotten hand”

Once again, you’d practically have to force a black widow to bite you.  Also, even if she were to bite me, it certainly would not rot my hand.  Black widow venom is a nuerotoxin, and does not cause necrosis.

Spread a little love to spiders and read about my research here.

Interesting (though sad) how your post triggered what sounds like dudebro panic and gendered slurs. If a visibly-male blogger had posted an equivalent image, I wonder if the same respondents would have commented about how “metal” and awesome he was. For a guy to do what you did would mark him as brave, and they could bask in reflected glory. But for a woman to do it, and do it casually, like it was no big deal, calls the whole shaky edifice of courageous manliness into question.

(I’m not saying it’s interesting to you, or anyone else with a lifetime of experience of online sexism. It’s just interesting to me.)

It reminds me of the moment I alluded to in my reblog of  the original post, when my then-girlfriend and I were in a pet shop, and she got all excited about the tarantulas, and a petshop employee pulled one out of its terrarium and put it on her arm. She was having so much fun, and I remember how it made me feel when she asked me if I wanted to let it crawl on me. My courage was being tested, and it definitely came up short. But I was aware at the time that that was all on me; she and the petshop employee were just enjoying themselves, and wanted to share the experience. I was the one with the problem. It made me feel defensive, though. If I’d seen it on the Internet, rather than have it happen right in front of me, maybe I would have reacted as these commenters did.

Following up on my earlier dilemma, I did tell Linda (my wife, not your spider) about my finding the widow in the garage the other day, and about my having failed to kill it. It led to an interesting (again, to me) discussion of the ethics involved. The one thing we were able to agree on is that my letting the garage get so cluttered as to make it into prime black widow habitat is problematic, whether or not we’re willing to regard the killing of black widows as justified.

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buggirl: Little Black Widow I caught today for a video I’m…

Sunday, July 20th, 2014


Little Black Widow I caught today for a video I’m making about my research. I shall name this one Linda.

Largely as a result of reading the research into How Badly You Have to Scare a Black Widow to Get Her to Actually Bite You, and then thinking about that research, I had a moral dilemma the other day.

Back story: I used to be pretty arachnophobic. My biggest freak out came late one night on a graveyard dispatch shift for a private security company, when I was alone in the dispatch center and a really big spider (like, only slightly short of tarantula-sized) crawled onto my shoulder without my realizing it, and I caught sight of it out of the corner of my eye and freaked the fuck out.

But a girlfriend who thought spiders were cute and adorable and liked nothing more than letting a tarantula crawl on her arm, and then about 30 years of steady work at observing and trying to better appreciate spiders, including being the designated spider-wrangler when a cobweb spider had set up housekeeping in the shower and needed to be removed, got me to the point where I can observe, and even handle (at need) a spider without there being a lot of drama.

But I drew the line at black widows. When finding them in the woodpile or the corners of my messy garage, I continued to kill them. It would elevate my heart rate and make me feel squeamish and guilty, but I’d do it.

Two days ago, though, while putting my bike away in the garage, I saw one. It was an adult female, hanging out on a cobweb in the front spokes of my wife’s bike, against which I normally lean my own. She was shiny black, and I leaned in closer to confirm, and yeah, red hourglass.

And I hesitated. The knowledge that she almost certainly was not going to bite a human unless very strongly provoked, to the point of actually putting her in legitimate fear for her own life, made me feel like killing her would be a morally questionable act. And I was okay with the idea that I could make that call for myself. But I also was pretty sure that my wife would disagree, and would argue that letting that spider continue to live in our garage, with the corresponding increased risk of a member of our family being accidentally bitten, outweighed the moral qualms I was feeling.

And those competing concerns were pretty evenly balanced in my mind, such that I actually stepped away for a minute to think about what I should do. And it’s embarrassing to admit, but one consideration that also factored into my thinking was this: if I _didn’t_ kill the spider, I was morally obligated to tell Linda where I’d seen it so she’d be forewarned about it being there. And that would mean I’d also have to either admit that I’d chosen to let it live (which was a decision I wasn’t looking forward to defending to her), or lie to her that I’d tried and failed to kill it (which would have crossed a different moral line I wasn’t interested in crossing).

So having thought through all this, I’d reluctantly come to the conclusion that I probably was going to kill it. And so I walked back to where I’d seen the spider and… she’d retreated out of sight into the clutter behind the bikes.

So I didn’t do anything. (And significantly, I didn’t tell Linda about it. Which, as I write this now, I think I need to fix.)

So. I don’t think anyone else will necessarily understand or approve of my mental contortions over all this. But seeing this image reminded me of it, and I wanted to share. If anyone has bothered to read this far, I’m interested in hearing your opinion.

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