The Welcome Guest

jumping-spider

My female “Wall Jumping Spider” Plexippus paykulli, is an established eater of mosquitoes.

If you live in Thailand you want these. Well, if you live anywhere, you want these.

This spiffy jumping spider has been living in my room for a couple weeks or more. I think most people would kill it, or, as I usually do, transfer it outside. But, somewhat selfishly, I thought, “if you can find enough to eat, you’re welcome to stay”.

The spider appears on the wall above my headboard. It’s true that if it happens to hop onto my bed or even my pillow, and I lay on it or roll over on it, it will bite me in a last ditch effort to free itself from being squashed. Jumping spiders, unlike their web-building cousins, hunt using their site and pounce on their prey, so they have excellent eyes and can see in nearly 360 degress. If you encounter one they will often back up, while looking up at you with their front two legs raised. So, I’m hoping the thing is alert enough to avoid getting squashed by a giant, lumbering human. In any case, its bite wouldn’t be that bad.

A little research and I find this is a tropical jumping spider, Plexippus paykulli, which is often found inside human dwellings, where it consumes a wide range of bugs, including mosquitoes and small cockroaches. They aren’t very big at 8-12 mm in length (less than a half inch) but they can take down prey twice their size through sheer agility and brute force.

“In a building where the only available prey were German cockroaches, Blatella germanica, the spiders not only survived but also bred on this monophagous diet.[6] They are able to successfully kill prey twice their own size. Large arthropods are injected with venom but are usually overpowered by brute strength before the venom has immobilized them” [Wikipedia].

I see the spider most every day, and especially at night, which seemed odd because I thought they liked sunlight, but the research above has shown me otherwise. Right now it is out of site somewhere. Apparently they build nests to retreat into during their down time. Last night I took a picture of it, and indeed it has expanded it’s girth a bit since it first appeared. If it were emaciating, I’d set it free. But as it turns out, it is free where it wants to be hunting in my hotel room.

Female Plexippus Paykulli

They have big eyes, and those prominent headlamps up front make them easier to relate to than other spiders. They will interact with you as well, which is why jumping spiders have always been my favorite spiders. (Photo by Project Noah).

This is all a bit symbolic of a new paradigm shift with nature. Some things, like ancient Chinese rice terraces, which worked in communion with nature (such as incorporating eels into the water), have not been beaten by modern technological methods. Farmers are discovering that leaving a portion of their land to go wild, also allows natural predators to effectively consume the pests that conventional pesticides are proving inefficient at killing and dangerous to humans. The way forward for technology, on a large scale, appears to be to realign with and reincorporate nature, as opposed to assuming some technological feat of purely artificial means will come along to triumph over nature, and in so doing solve whichever problem is most dire.

A half dozen years ago I stayed in a temple in Bangkok for ten days to study meditation. As a “meditator” I had to perform chores, including doing dishes, sweeping, serving food, and keeping the giant ugly ass flying roaches off of the high-ranking monk’s food. Despite the best efforts of the nuns, who did most the work while the monks were free to devote themselves to spiritual and financial causes, the giant roaches were always lurking.

At the same time, I noticed very few house geckos, and none of the larger Tokay geckos which will actually eat aforementioned giant ugly roaches. If the Tokays were around, one would hear them at night making their “Tokay” calls. I don’t know what happened to the lizards. Maybe the temple had cats, and I can’t tell if my memory is tricking me now, through the power of suggestion, to conjuring vague memories of cats or not. Now I think they might have had cats in order to rid the temple of lizards, but, again, could be my memory playing tricks on me. The point is that a healthy gecko population might have kept the roaches under control. One could have ended up with a half dozen or so large geckos, and only the occasional roach sighting.

A sort of loose rule to keep in mind as a distinct possibility is: “when possible let nature take care of it’s own problems”.

So, if a voracious spider wants to make a home in my room, and it’s hunting down mosquitoes, fruit flies, baby roaches, moths… I’m just fine with that.

And I like the spider. It’s also a “her”, which I know because she doesn’t have the conspicuous white stripe the males have. No I haven’t named her. Feel free to suggest a name.

Finally, if you find these in your home, consider what they eat, and that they don’t even make webs, before putting  them outside or killing them. Americans, grieve not, they are already established in Florida and Texas.

male-and-female

If you find these in your home, and you want to name them with appropriately gendered names, the male is on the left with the white stripe. Mine is a female.


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5 thoughts on “The Welcome Guest

  1. Yeah I never use pesticides or kill spiders either, though I sometimes relocate redbacks and funnel-webs who seek to become my housemates.

    So far I’ve been successful in fighting off all my landlords who’ve wanted to fumigate too. The fact is the places I live have lower rates of pest infestation than those of my friends and family who spray poison around.

    My homes are always full of spiders, often the particularly large and hairy wolf spider (incorrectly called ‘huntsmen’ by most Australians) that has a more than passing resemblance to the deadly funnel-web. They are particularly effective against a wide range of household pests.

    When I lived in Leichhardt there was always several big wolf spiders on the ceiling near the front door.

    One day one of my flatmates had been having a long doorstop conversation with a couple of Mormons when he suddenly looked up and yelled “Funnel web ambush! Run for it!”. He threw his arms over his head and dived into a nearby bedroom leaving the Mormons to check out the ceiling to see what the fuss was about.

    I don’t reckon all the performance enhancing drugs in the world could have made Lance Armstrong as fast as a Mormon who has just spotted half a dozen hairy spiders as big as his hand directly above him.

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    1. Not familiar with the very large spiders you have in OZ. In California we mostly had smaller varieties, and in Thailand there’s only one large version I’v encountered so far, wait, there are two. One is like wolf spider, and nearly the size of my hand at full size, and the other is a large orb web weaver that’s green and black. That one seems harmless.

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      1. Not familiar with the very large spiders you have in OZ.

        When it comes to big dangerous spiders the Sydney funnel web is certainly the real deal and you can find them under some of the most prestigious houses on Sydney’s North Shore. A kid I went to primary school with was killed by one (this was before the antivenin was developed when we used to lose a few people every year to them) and the house I lived in at Neutral Bay was full of them (usually they stayed under the house and out of sight but I had a couple of unsettling encounters).

        The big hairy ones you have in Thailand are huntsmen. Like wolf spiders they are scary looking but harmless. We also have huntsmen in Australia but they are relatively uncommon, especially in homes. Huntsmen tend to lie flat against a surface with their legs curved forward while waiting in ambush, unlike wolf spiders whose leg joints stick up higher than their backs (like funnel webs).

        We have yellow and black orb weavers in Aus that look very similar to the green and black Thai ones. They’re harmless.

        I was bitten by a wolf spider once when I was showing off hand feeding it flies. It was pretty painful – like having a lit cigarette held against my finger for a couple of hours – and left a red lump that took nearly a day to go down but I’ve never heard of anyone needing hospitalisation for a wolf spider bite.

        We’ve got other big scary looking spiders in Aus – like the mouse spider for example – but they’re not usually seen inside houses and are relatively harmless (the mouse spider isn’t very venomous but hosts a symbiotic bacteria on it’s fangs that can cause pretty horrible ulcers).

        A half dozen years ago I stayed in a temple in Bangkok for ten days to study meditation.

        Wat Suanmokkh near Chaiya has a thriving population of big scorpions that meditators are forbidden from harming.
        During my times there I reckon the scorpions were the single biggest reason for farangs to drop out of the course. Many only lasted a couple of days of the four week retreat. No refunds either.

        Suanmokkh also has geckos, Tokays and very large tortoises.
        Don’t recall seeing any roaches there.

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