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Garden Allies: Wandering and Hunting Spiders

Articles: Garden Allies: Wandering and Hunting Spiders

A Wolf Spider (Schizocosa mccooki) Illus: Craig Latker
Wolves, Crabs, and Other Wandering Spiders
Since long before Miss Muffet was scared off her tuffet, people have feared spiders. She would have done better to be wary of her father, who dosed her with spiders as medicine—a not uncommon remedy in times past. Spiders, however, have done little to warrant their sinister reputation. Worldwide, only about twenty-five species are dangerous to humans, and most of these are not aggressive. In the West, the only seriously venomous spider is the shy, nocturnal, and easily avoided black widow. Yet, despite the considerable contribution spiders make in pest control, it can be difficult to overcome the fear. Even the occasional entomologist, while professing a love of insects, may be openly arachnophobic. “Too many legs!”

Spiders have eight legs, two more than insects, and are part of the class Arachnida, which includes several familiar orders of arthropods such as scorpions, ticks, and mites. Spiders, in the order Araneae, have only two main body parts: the abdomen, and the cephalothorax, analogous to the fused head...

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