When I was a 10 year old in that stage of intellectual development in which “facts” about the world were gathered and repeated at every opportunity, regardless of whether people around me cared, or even whether the facts could be verified as true – this is what I would declare about spiders:
1. No human is ever farther than 7 inches from a spider
2. Humans swallow, on average, 7 spiders in their sleep each year.
I have no clue where these supposed true descriptions of the world originated, nor have I ever checked on them. As an adult, of course, I’m deeply skeptical. If I tried to invent from my imagination a pair of urban legends perfectly concocted to freak out my sisters, there could be no better result. So who knows, maybe I just dreamed it up.
The reason the ubiquity of the presence of spiders felt right to me in childhood is because, throughout my life, it’s always felt that spiders are… well… ubiquitous.
This is never more apparent than on days like today – days when I’ll glance at the molding around a doorway I pass beneath, or when I look down at a windowsill while drawing a curtain, or let my gaze wander the edge of the bathroom sink. There’s never anything in the least unusual about finding, on any of those peripheral surfaces and more, a quick and fleeting scurrying motion of a spider ducking away from me. Today it was the bathroom sink.
These photos were snapped of a member of the most common spider family on earth: Salticidae, the Jumping Spiders. There are at least 5,000 species, populating well over 500 genera. They live just about everywhere, including your house. Yes, your house.
Don’t freak out, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your home with them. Between their small size (merely 10 or so mm) and shy ways, you probably miss them. In fact, they’re so quick on their feet, and have such amazingly good eyesight, you’ll never have to catch more than an occasional glimpse of them. Meanwhile they’re likely hunting the bugs you really don’t want much around where you live.
Who knows what this one is? Phidippus is a common enough genus in the Northeast where I live, and P. audax often has the irridescent green chompers (spider experts call them “chelicerae”) you can see in these shots. If I’ve got the species right, its common names are Bold Jumping Spider or Daring Jumping Spider. If so, they’re aptly named.
There’s something confrontational about the way this small fellow turned its face toward me and followed all of my movements. Though it clearly preferred fleeing to confrontation, it dealt with me without much fear as I corralled it around the sink with a paper cup. It would raise its body up on its rear legs, not exactly in a threatening way, but testing the air between us with its front legs and always watching, even staring at me with its excellent, beady eyes.