In Which Shelob Emerges

Last night, I was laying in bed, quietly engaged in reading Amy Stewart’s wonderful (if not a bit disturbing) “Wicked Bugs.”  Ceres, was curled up in the floor doing the normal dog sleeping thing. Suddenly a large moth started flappin’ about the room.  I didn’t know where it came from, and at the time didn’t really care, I just didn’t want it in the bedroom.  So I got up and attempted to swat the moth down.  My movement alerted Ceres, who quickly awoke, and soon was engaged in active moth watching with a look of fascination and hunger (fact: Ceres is not discrete when it comes to her enjoyment of eating bugs).

As I attempted to catch the moth the fluttering insect suddenly found itself caught in a messy spindly cobweb up high on one of our bookcases.  I counted this as a blessing, because now the moth was relatively immobilized and would be easier to remove.  I was just about to reach up and capture it, when I was beat to the act by the single largest spider I have ever seen in my house. I want to insist that this is saying something.  Besides the occasional black widow I am quite opposed to killing spiders in the house because they are beneficial predators who contribute to keeping other pest bugs away.  I have grown accustomed to seeing large male Southern House Spiders slowly lurking about, but this one made even them look minute.  This large, smooth, and black-brown spider scuttled out, grabbed the moth (quite large itself) and quickly went to work encasing it webbing.  Then, with the job done, it took its meal, and disappeared back behind the books from which it had emerged. I looked at the titles, trying to determine if they were anything that I might want to read soon.  They were not, so I decided to let the thing say where it was.  I did decide that it deserved the name “Shelob” however, being large enough to make an audible noise while it moved (at best guess, including its legs, I’d put this at about three inches long).

With a bit of research I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the female version of those Southern House Spiders (aka Crevice Weaver Spider) I’ve seen; a member of the species Kukulcania hibernalis.  These spiders exhibit very extreme sexual dimorphism, so much such that the males and females are often mistaken for two separate species. The males are often mistaken as Brown Recluse spiders, whereas the females have a look similar to that of a tunnelweb spider or a small smooth tarantula. While large and kind of disturbing looking Southern House Spiders are harmless to humans, and, in fact, serve as very effective pest controls.  If you don’t like these in your house, but, like me, are opposed to killing them, it is best not to just put them directly outdoors, as they are not accustomed to the colder weather.  Instead I recommend dropping them down some duct working, or putting them in the crawls space or a shed, where they can continue to serve as predators of more annoying bugs.

I wish I could have gotten a good picture of her, but ol’ Shelob liked her privacy and disappeared before I had a chance to snap a shot.  There are some good photos of them on What’s that Bug however.  Here is a photograph I’ve managed to snap of a big male one (possible Shelobs husband?) a while back:

They might look creepy slowly lurking about the house, however, the male Southern House Spider (Kukulcania hibernalis) is harmless, mostly blind, in with jaws too tiny to even bite a human.  They look quite different from their female counterparts due to extreme sexual dimorphism.

They might look creepy slowly lurking about the house, however, the male Southern House Spider (Kukulcania hibernalis) is harmless, mostly blind, in with jaws too tiny to even bite a human. They look quite different from their female counterparts due to extreme sexual dimorphism.

FYI, the irony of my reading “Wicked Bugs” when Shelob emerged has not be lost on me.

 

 

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~ by Nathaniel on May 7, 2013.

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