I Get Mail: Arachnoterror!

Found scuttling around in my docbushwell at gmail inbox:




Needless to say, I was slightly disturbed when greeted with those images. My learned correspondent wrote the accompanying letter:

Dr. Bushwell:

My research has confirmed existence of several genera of the wolf spider Pardosa (Araneae, Lycosidae), such as the rabid wolf spider Rabidosa (Araneae, Lycosidae) and the oriental wolf spider Passiena (Lycosidae, Pardosinae). However, I have found no evidence of the FUCKING WOLF SPIDER! genus documented in Science Blogs. Ahem. Isn't science supposed to be about facts?

Nevertheless, despite your unsupported claim, I've decided that FUCKING WOLF SPIDER! would be an excellent name for a band...probably a really bad, thrash metal hair band. Look for our upcoming CD release, "In Your Fucking Tent" featuring the soon-to-be-hit, head-banging ballad "While You Sleep."

Sincerely yours,

Coincidentally (or not), I had just read Arachnid Serendipity courtesy of The Indigestible, a noteworthy compendium of borborygmi to be found in the Refuge's "Skepticism and General Agitation" blog roll. Warren's description (augmented with pictures - close-up pictures) of his encounter with an Arizona brown spider had me writhing in my chair brushing away phantom legs and probing pedipalps.

Pardon me while I turn into a gibbering, quivering lump of phobic protoplasm.

More like this

The link to the original posting is broken (a spurious " on the end?). The original FUCKING WOLF SPIDER is:


Now for my own spider story. Spiders don't bother me, but the scare the whatevers off a good friend of mine. One day yonks ago she and I were setting out for a working lunch; she was driving. We had, for some reason, just been talking about her fear of spiders.

Not a hundred metres from where we set out, a spider descends on thread of silk from the driver's sunshade. The driver, my friend, starts freaking out as the spider descends past her face. She does have the presence of mind of keep the car under control (she's also a pilot and normally quite rational; I assume both traits helped?).

I just lean over and put my notebook under the spider (not my hand since I didn't know what type of spider it was) and let the spider land. I pinched off the silk thread and took a close look at the spider. It wasn't one of the local nasties, so I just tossed it out the open window.


"Well, that one wasn't dangerous. If it was, I would have returned it to you."

"Er, thanks?"

"No problems!"

Nonetheless, I did get a free lunch for my heroic rescue.

Ever since, whenever we arrange to visit, I warn her about the "mammoth-sized meat-eating spiders" or whatever my diseased brain thinks up at the moment ...

I've been living around brown spiders of roughly that appearance all my life. I don't like them crawling on me (not because I got bit by a brown spider - but because I've been bit by other spiders), but other than that I don't mind them. They do hunt insects.

Er, I should clarify - I meant brown wolf spiders like the picture above, not Arizona brown spiders described in the link.

One night I woke up with what looked like a rapidly spreading mole on the inside of my forearm. I thought I had developed an overnight case of malignant melanoma and spent the rest of the night pacing in a panic as I agonized over the future of my soon-to-be orphaned infant daughter. The next morning I rushed in to see the doctor as soon as his office opened. He couldn't suppress a smile, but at least he didn't laugh outright. Whilst sleeping, I had been bitten by a spider, and the spreading black 'mole' was necrotizing tissue. (Oddly enough, though, it is my daughter who has arachnophobia, and she has never been bitten.)

blf - great anecdote! Thanks for slapping it up here on the hallowed scat-encrusted walls of the Refuge. Also, thanks for pointing out the broken link. I fixed it (missing a ").

llewelly - I'm certain the heebie jeebies I experience at the sight of a member of the Lycosidae stems from being bitten by one as a child. Otherwise, I find spiders to be pretty interesting and useful critters. Even though I wouldn't want one crawling on me, I nonetheless like the orb weavers and look forward to seeing them in the late summer and early autumn.

Elf Eye - In a word, "Yikes!" I have to admit to morbid scientific fascination concerning the necrotic effects of brown recluse spider venom. The condition has a specific term: loxoscelism; keep that one under your hat for a lively Scrabble game. The venom contains metallo- and serine proteases that chew up the cellular matrix. Yummy.

Elf Eye: My first reaction to your doctor's amusement is what the frack? Necrotizing toxins aren't funny in the least, and can -- in addition to costing you a lot of flesh -- debilitate, cripple or even kill you. A metastatizing tumor is no more a matter for laughter than a bite from a hobo, brown or widow spider.

Our local answer to the wolf spider (of which we have a couple varieties) is the entirely-venomless solifuge*, which is probably hands-down one of the creepiest looking arthropods in the history of the phylum.


* They're found all over the planet and have a single clear line of descent that's about 300 MY deep. In other words they evolved initially before the continents broke up enough to separate their ranges, and don't appear to have substantially changed since then in general body plan or behavior, though the variation they show today is simply amazing.

These are the same creatures as the mythical "camel spider".