Year of the Spider

Canopy Jummping Spider - Phidippus otiosus (female) (2).jpg

Each year, North Carolina State Parks chooses a theme to be the main focus of our interpretation and education efforts. In years past, our themes have included wildflowers, turtles, birds, bats and even amphibians. This year’s theme is a leg above the rest, eight legs to be exact. 2017 is the Year of the Spider. Spiders are often considered insects, but are actually arachnids. Spiders and other arachnids have eight legs, as opposed to insects, which have six. In addition, spiders don’t have wings or antennae and have a cluster of eight eyes. Like other animals, spiders are broken up into families. In this article we are going to focus on the Salticidae family, commonly referred to as the jumping spiders. The idea of a spider that can jump is an intimidating thought for those who feel uneasy around spiders, but consider for a moment their size. The jumping spiders that can be found in North Carolina range from ¼- to ¾-inch in total length. Spiders always seem larger than they are, but the truth is, even the biggest jumping spiders aren’t much bigger than a dime. Jumping spiders are robust and covered in hair. Of their eight eyes, two are large and centrally located at the front of their face to aid in hunting and maneuvering around their habitat.  Jumping spiders are mostly active during the day and, as their name implies, jump about as they search fences, outbuildings, plants, flowers and trees for small insects to prey on. Because jumping spiders actively hunt for their prey, they don’t build webs to entrap prey like the more easily seen orb weavers. They do have the ability to spin silk and make small silken retreats under tree bark and leaves. While they are small, jumping spiders don’t lack flare. If you look closely at these little spiders, their intricate patterns range in color from brown and black to more radiant reds, blues, greens and yellows.  If you take the time to notice, you might just acknowledge their beauty.

As we enter into March and April, many changes are happening around the park. Temperatures are warming up as we transition from winter to spring and like many animals, our spiders are starting to grow active with the warming weather. So as the weather improves, come visit Lake James State Park and look closely to see if you can discover one of the most fascinating spider species, the jumping spider.