The Arachnologist Delivers

The guy who delivered my pizza last night loves spiders. I turned on the porch light as I stepped outside to take the boxes. The large spider that hangs out over the light was center stage and we were soon talking about how cool he was. I learned that Pizza Guy likes to take pictures of spiders, which he sometimes enlarges as prints for his walls. He had his camera in the car, so I invited him to take a picture of my porch spider, and I also got to see a few other spider shots he had stored on the memory card.

Simply a porch spider. Photo by Jessica Becker

Simply a porch spider. Photo by Jessica Becker

I don’t personally care that much about spiders, but I’m no arachnophobe, either. When I stopped to look at this eight-legged critter, I wanted to know more about him. Specifically, I wanted to know what kind of spider it was. That’s just the way I am, so I was intrigued when Pizza Guy said he believed it was related to a tarantula.

“Really?” I asked more impressed than incredulous. But his response was: “That’s what I believe.”

I take that to mean he really had no idea what kind of spider it was. He simply appreciated it for its intrinsic, perhaps aesthetic, value. How refreshing.

I am so used to hanging out with people who are the epitome of “inquiring minds want to know.” This is made finger-tip easy by the iphone and other phone-to-Web applications.  It’s hard to get through a conversation without someone fact-checking a comment, or pulling up a graphic to illustrate their point, or finding out just exactly who did originally say that, and when.

It really wouldn’t be all that difficult to figure out what kind of spider it is hanging out above my porch light. But, who cares, really? I believe he eats mosquitoes, which makes me happy to have him around.

by Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs, Wisconsin Humanities Council

8 Responses to The Arachnologist Delivers

  1. For inquiring minds who’d like to know more about Jessica’s porch spider (and other arachnids), the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay is hosting its Spiders! exhibition through May 2010. As part of the exhibit, the museum has scheduled a series of spider hikes through area parks and refuges. You can learn the details at Portal Wisconsin or at the Neville’s site:

  2. Michael Leland says:

    I can’t prove it, but I swear that Madison is the most spider-ridden city I’ve ever lived in. The seem to be everywhere! My condo building and apartment before it were crawling with them.

  3. We have your spider’s sister hanging outside our bedroom. Every once in awhile when we’re shutting the curtains before bed we marvel at it’s size and wonder if its abdomen is getting fatter with spider eggs or if we’re just imagining it. I have no idea what kind of spider it is, but I have to confess that on occasion I am one of those people who pull out the phone to look something up. (Admittedly it’s usually at someone else’s insistence.)

    I try not to be that phone guy, but the technology is pretty awesome isn’t it? (full disclosure, I don’t have an iphone.)

    I like to think having the ability to do so many things in my hand has given me the opportunity to explore and express in new ways.

  4. Matt says:

    The spider pictured above is an orbweaver. These are the kind that build the round webs with spokes and a spiral that people often associate with spiders. Charlotte was an orbweaver. Like Charlotte this spider is a female. Orbweavers catch flying insect and occassionally leaping or jumping insects.

  5. Ron says:

    Every year, a spider takes up residence in my driver’s side mirror on my Accord. This year’s spider has tagged along for trips to Green Bay, Hudson, Wausau, Beloit, Sheboygan, Milwaukee, and LaCrosse. Also, out of state trips to Chicago and South Dakota. The spiders always survive trips to the car wash and there is ALWAYS a new web waiting for me in the morning when I get to my car.

  6. elissa brunette says:

    i live in green bay wi and have a huge (little bigger than a marble sized) spider similsr to the one pictured above outside my window. he is a bit lighter on the body like a very light tan and has a very defined small letter t on his back in white. i believe his legs are dark brown and yellow and his head looks black, he is so big you can make out his front eyes and looks like he can move his head around or maybe that was just his legs covering his face. anyway his body is between nickel and quarter size in diameter and his head is about the size of a bb, his body is round not oval, there are small hairs on his legs and he runs and hides when we look through the window at him or get close at times. however there are also times that he seems to have no fear. his head looks to be black. if anyone has any info on this spider please e mail me at, i need to know if this is somthing to worry about or not. thank you.

    • matt says:

      Elissa’s spider sounds like an Cross Spider (based on that little t on more than likely her back). The latin name is Araneus diadematus. Google image search that name and you you can see examples of her.

      It’s interesting that in our culture we refer to spiders as “he” much like we refer to dogs as “he” and cats as “she”. In Spanish spiders are always considered female. In my experience, most larger spiders that people see are female. At the Neville Public Museum I train my docents and intern to refer to most of our spiders as “she” as that almost all of them on display in our Spiders! exhibit are female.

      If you want to tell the difference looked at the part of the spider that most people think of as the antennae. These are called the pedipalps. If they are slim and look like fingers the spider is female. However if they look like they have boxing gloves or meatballs at the tips the spider is male.

  7. Joe says:

    Glass Nickel in Madison? I just had a pizza guy take pictures of a couple huge spiders on my porch. I found this while trying to figure out what type of spider they are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: