Woodlouse spiders are some of the most common arachnids found in America. Read on to know more about this gardener’s friend.
Did You Know
Spider webs are being heavily researched in order to design super-strong fibers intended for human use.
If your typical reaction to spiders is ‘ewww’ rather than ‘oooh’, you are in the grossly misinformed majority. Spiders are often considered creepy portents of evil―a perception, not helped by Hollywood―and are more often than not greeted with rolled-up magazines or fly swatters, rather than a curious mind and a gentle hand. In reality, spiders are wonderful creatures―supremely adaptable, incredibly successful and, above all, darkly fascinating.
Although people generally tend to hate spiders, think for one moment about the alternative. Without spiders, Peter Parker would have been bullied his whole life, would never have got Mary Jane, and probably would have been deemed unnecessary at the Daily Bugle. Without spiders, or without the funeral of one, Harry would have taken an eternity to get Professor Slughorn to part with the most important memory of them all. And even more importantly, without spiders, or without one particularly witty spider―whisper it―Wilbur would have been slaughtered! Dreadful!
The woodlouse spider is an arachnid species that preys exclusively on woodlice. Here’s some info about this tiny marvel.
Name: Woodlouse Spider
Scientific name: Dysdera crocata
Species: D. crocata
Woodlouse Spiders have a dark red thorax and legs with a yellow-brown abdomen. The color of the thorax may vary from blood-red to brown.
They have large chelicerae (jaws) ― proportionately much larger than most spider species.
Like with most spiders, the females are larger. Female spiders are 11 to 15 mm in length and the males are 9 to 10 mm in length.
As mentioned before, woodlouse spiders feed exclusively on woodlice. Hence, they live close to areas where woodlice, also known as potato bugs, pill bugs, rolly-polly bugs, etc., are found.
Gardeners tend to welcome these arachnids in their yards, as they help them get rid of woodlice, which are notorious pests. Since these spiders don’t feed on plants, there is no risk of the pesticide itself becoming the pest.
They spend the day in a silk cocoon, and come out at night to hunt. They do not use webs for trapping prey, and actively seek out woodlice like any other predator.
Their large chelicerae come in handy while breaking into the tough exoskeletons of woodlice.
Woodlouse spiders have a very aggressive mating ritual. Both the mating partners are at a risk of injury in the heat of the moment due to their large and strong chelicerae. After mating, the female lays her eggs in a silk cocoon and, unlike most spiders, is believed to take care of her offspring.
Habitat and Range
Woodlouse Spiders are native to southern Europe, but have been introduced to Asia, Australia (continent), Africa (excluding the tropical rainforests), and North and South America, resulting in a cosmopolitan population. Within the US, it is very common to spot a woodlouse spider in Colorado and along the Atlantic seaboard.
Are They Poisonous?
Woodlouse spiders have large jaws that are capable of biting humans if handled insensitively. Despite their tiny size, their bites are quite painful and the venom may cause an allergic reaction in some people. However, the venom is not fatal. Bites from a woodlouse spider are extremely rare; given their minuscule size, they understandably try to scurry away from any approaching human, and will bite only upon continuous, deliberate provocation. If the bite causes an allergic reaction, immediate medical attention should be sought. Otherwise, it’s not a critical issue.