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Barn Spiders, Just Call her Charlotte

By Chris Williams on February 10, 2012.

Anyone who really knows me probably knows that I like spiders.  I’ve been fascinated with these amazing creatures my entire life.  Inevitably I’ll get asked the question something like, “how can you do what you do for a living”? (Pest control)  Really, I’m not conflicted at all because I know most people do not share my enthusiasm for spiders, and I’m more than happy to help try to eliminate or at least manage them to a tolerable level around people’s homes.  Even I’ll admit to being startled by them occasionally in my home.  Some of the wolf spiders (Lycosidae) can be quite large, and since they’re nocturnal and don’t usually build any type of snare, they’re wandering at night all the time.  So believe me I get it that if you wake up when nature calls on a warm summer night and one’s trapped in the bathtub staring at you, that is not a good thing!  Even the passive hunters like the cellar spiders (the gray spindly legged spiders in the family Pholcidae) can build up populations pretty quickly in a damp cellar or garage.  Several generations worth of abandoned webs (they don’t recycle them like some others will) can create quite a mess and can often give the impression of a much larger problem.  Okay, enough about the bad and the ugly, and why spiders are pests because now I want to talk about my favorite family of spiders, the Araneidae.  This is a very large family with about 3500 species worldwide.  These spiders are the architects of that ‘classic’ orb style snare.

Most are quite content to construct these works of art outdoors in woodlands between shrubs and in tall grasses, so they’re pretty pest neutral.  I’m always excited when a garden spider takes up residence in one of my flower gardens because they’re cool to look at and fun to watch in action.  Only a couple of species of Araneidae could be considered as pests (remotely!) and they’re in the genus Araneus.  These are among the largest spiders of the entire group and will often build their webs around man-made structures like fences, bridges, barns, and other types of buildings.  There is even a famous one now thanks to E.B. White who based his classic children’s story Charlotte’s Web on the life of the ‘barn spider’ Araneus cavaticus.  The following link has some really nice images and information on the systematics of the Araneidae. Bug Guide

Remember from now on if you should have a large grayish colored spider (now famous) in your barn, don’t call her a pest, and just call her Charlotte!

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