Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

female Carolina Jumping Spider, PHIDIPPUS CAROLINENSIS, top view

from the November 17, 2013 Newsletter issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

Two fellows were lowering a submersible pump 300 feet down the well recently dug beside Juniper House, and they had stories to tell. What a world of inexplicable events, conspiracies, and hypocrisies we live in! On the side of our 1100 gallon water tank one of the men spotted a dark little spider about the size of a fingernail, and with awe announced that it was the Blister Spider. Blister Spiders spit venom at you causing big blisters all up your arms and on your face, blisters that are surpassingly painful and don't heal well. While describing the horror of the blisters, the man's hands pantomimed venom arcing through the air and descending all over a victim. Once Blister Spider stories were exhausted, talk drifted to a certain black-and-white, very hairy spider around here that if you touch it shocks you with high-voltage jolts of electricity.

People standing around the well may have had doubts about the electricity spider, but that dark little spider on the tank had been identified by someone who knows his spiders, so people stayed well away from it. Except me; I got so close that more than once the spider jumped onto my camera lens, and onto me. Despite the spider's curiosity, I got the great picture shown below:

female Carolina Jumping Spider, PHIDIPPUS CAROLINENSIS

At the top of this page a view from the top shows striking patterns on the abdomen and cephalothorax.

I didn't notice any spigots for spurting venom onto people, but I didn't look too hard because to me this looked like an ordinary jumping spider. But there are lots of jumping spider species, so the picture was sent to volunteer identifier Bea in Ontario, who quickly decided we probably had a female Carolina Jumping Spider, PHIDIPPUS CAROLINENSIS. Despite the "carolinensis" in its name, it occurs in Texas and parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, and Mexico. To confirm the name the pictures were uploaded to the Arachnoboards.com spider-ID forum where we asked if anyone disagreed, and no one did.

It's true that jumping spider venom is powerful stuff; often you see them subduing surprisingly large prey. However, they're so small and their mouthparts are so miniscule that they're no problem for humans, plus they show no interest in attacking us -- though if you get as close as my camera lens did, just an inch or two away, they might jump on you, maybe just for fun. Jumping spiders don't produce webs but they do use silk to build cocoon-like retreats for themselves and egg casings, and as they wander about they leave behind silken safety lines.