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Spiders in Cleveland Metroparks

If you have a physical reaction to the word "spider," you are not alone. According to a Gallup poll in 2001, 27% of all Americans admit to being afraid of spiders. Actually, I take this as great news, since the number was down from 34% in 1998. This tells me that I am slowly working my way toward a personal goal of getting everyone to be as fascinated by spiders as I am.

Let’s get some of the common spider questions out of the way...

Are spiders poisonous?
No, you can eat all of the spiders you would like to.

Are spiders venomous?
Yes, all spiders contain some amount of venom, but most of them only have enough to kill a small insect and it has little to no affect on a human. Most spiders don’t even bite humans on a regular basis, and if they do, it is similar to a mosquito bite. However, some people can be allergic to the bites, similar to a bee sting allergy.

Do we have brown recluse and black widow spiders in Ohio? 
Yes, we have a small number of both of them. Ohio spider experts believe that the recluse was accidently introduced by people to our area and suspect they do not survive through an average Ohio winter, unless they can find a building to get inside. They are not the large brown spiders that walk across an open room in your house. Black widows are most commonly associated with abandoned barns and undisturbed areas. Both bites can be treated and most people fully recover with the assistance of modern medicine.

Spider Viewing

I find that most people who can get past that initial response and take a moment to look at a spider up close quickly become mesmerized by them. Fall is the perfect time of year for spider watching. Find yourself a nice orb weaver — these are some of the bigger spiders we have and they build those storybook circular webs. These webs themselves are often quite amazing. They are a combination a several kinds of silk. Some silks are strong, others are flexible, and others are sticky. Some silks are almost invisible while others are highly visible, depending on which kind of animal is looking at them.

At first glance most people would not describe spiders as being beautiful. But even the "plain brown" ones have complex patterns and shading. One of my favorite orb weavers that you can find this time of year is a Jack-o-lantern spider. These are commonly found on the outsides of buildings with webs between the drainpipes and the walls. Their abdomen is bulbous and bright orange with yellow and black markings that often look like a face. If you find one of these spiders you can visit her every day, they build their web in one place and rarely move unless they are threatened or they are not finding food. If they have a good location they just build a new web in the same spot to replace the old, damaged one.

If being nose to pedipalp (these look like an extra pair of smaller legs near the spider’s mouth) with a spider is a little too up close and personal for you, try the zoom lens on your camera, or come visit your local nature center where you can comfortably view one from behind glass.

—Stacey Allen, Interim Center Manager, CanalWay Center