Cool Midwest Summer Creates Bigger Spiders
Thu Aug 26, 2:46 PM ET
By LISA SCHENCKER, Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO - Midwestern spiders always get big as they prepare to lay eggs, but this year they're even fatter thanks to a cool, wet summer that sustained their favorite snack — insects.
"Right now they're eating like kings," said Field Museum entomologist Petra Sierwald. "They're having a very good time."
People throughout the Midwest are noticing the corpulent arachnids everywhere from bushes to the windows of high-rise buildings.
Randall Deutsch said lately he's noticed armies of spiders clinging to the outside of office windows where he works as an architect.
"It's one of the strangest things to see spiders on upper floors," said Deutsch, 43, of Winnetka. "Maybe they're trying to escape the city and heat like everyone else."
Former high-rise window washer Russell Hendericks said he's seen workers drop their tools when spiders crawl on their hands.
"Spiders don't bother me, but my partner is petrified," said Hendericks, who took over as owner of H & M Window Cleaning and Building Maintenance in Chicago this month. "He goes home and takes a bath and has them in his hair."
Donald Webb, an entomologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, said spiders are often plentiful and plump this time of year.
"There's usually more spiders this time of year because there are more insects out," Webb said. "There's just more food out there for them."
But just how many are there, and how fat are they? Entomologists say it's hard to pinpoint exact numbers.
The rule of thumb is that no one anywhere is ever more than 3 feet away from a spider, Sierwald said. There are also 899 known spider species in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. People just don't notice the creepy crawlers as much until they fatten up near the end of summer.
Each fall, female spiders can double in size as they prepare to lay eggs. Some spiders, such as female argiopes, which are common to Illinois, can grow as long as 2 inches. Argiopes spin large, orb-like webs and can be found in bushes, prairies and well-kept yards.
Other spiders, such as jumping spiders, range in size from tiny to half an inch long and often sneak into people's houses.
Most spiders in the Midwest will lay their eggs from now through October and then hibernate or die, Sierwald said.
For spider haters, the bad news is that before they die, spiders will lay anywhere from 50 to 1,000 eggs a piece.
Out of those eggs, however, only one or two spiders will survive to maturity — a sad fact for spider lovers such as Boyce Tankersley, 48.
Tankersley, an avid gardener from Grayslake who works at the Chicago Botanic Garden, said spiders are a great way to control the insects in his quarter-acre garden.
"My grapevines have got some nice spiders that live on them every year," Tankersley said. "I wish I had more spiders on my raspberries."
Others, however, will not be as heartbroken to see the sizable spiders go.
"They give me the heebie-jeebies," said Colleen Murphy, 43, of Arlington Heights as she relaxed near a bench in Chicago's Millennium Park. "My brothers used to throw them at me when I was little."
Shit, I really hate spiders