Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pumpkin Spider

In the fall, the garden is full of of large spiders, Pumpkin Spiders. This one made her presence known on her web beside the gate into the garden about two weeks ago. She has woven her web inside out beside the pathway. That's why we see her underside.

Every day she appears from her hiding place somewhere in the foliage at the edges of her web and sits in the sun for the entire afternoon. Every day at sunset, she disappears back into the leaves and makes herself very small. Anyone who has ever picked raspberries or blackberries knows how startling it is to reach for a berry and have one of these spiders run out from beneath the nearby leaf.  Now that the weather has changed, she waits until the rain has stopped and then only comes out in the afternoons. Her place of rest during a storm is now in the salal berries growing behind the white wooden slats.

She has probably lived here all summer and we didn't notice her before because she would have been very small. In the fall, there is much more food in the greenery which these spiders inhabit, and the pumpkin spiders grow enormous at a very speedy rate. Since their sudden and amazing surge in size makes them more obvious around Halloween and since their body resembles a pumpkin, it is believed this is why they are called Pumpkin Spiders.

So, to not get them caught in our clothes or hair - they are everywhere in the shrubbery and plants and thus somewhat out of sight of  the birds and those who come upon them unknowingly -  and since they eat so many bugs, in the fall we take a break from working in the garden and leave the Pumpkin Spiders to do their business. When we walk through the gate, we are careful not to brush against her web. She ignores us.

No one I know would ever willingly kill a pumpkin spider and they are not feared for their bite as are our black widows and brown recluses and more recently, the hobo which is said to be migrating south from Oregon and Washington. Some even say they don't bite. I don't know about this for certain as they most probably are capable. However, I've gotten them caught in my hair and on my clothes many times and I haven't ever been bitten.

Any day now, she will have a name, should one come to mind.


  1. I named mine DEXTER...He is outside my kitchen window, every day treats me to a viewing of his catch of the day...wound up like in plastic wrap.

  2. Hah! Weird that I found a local's blog when looking for info on Pumpkin Spiders(I live in Eureka)!
    You answered my questions of WHY those spiders seemed to be noticed around Halloween time and HOW they are at their largest then. Thanks! Debra

  3. Well, it is almost a full year since that last post. I too, was looking into pumpkin spiders when I ran into this local blog. I'm trying to find out how long they live. The small one, that we have followed on the frame of the clematis, has disappeared. We've watched him/her grow from a little spider to a very fat and big one.I've been able to educate my g-grandchildren that they are not to be feared. But, they are amazing at their engineering feat of building their web. From up high to drop down, how far they go before they turn around, etc. All instinct and this just didn't happened..but built into a plan of design by our creator. I don't know if the spider died or if a bird may have eaten it. Just curious.
    I too live in Eureka

  4. Ive kept one alive for 5 months in my house feeding it random insects
    I live in arcata

    1. I am very impressed. I wonder if it will live longer inside?

    2. So far so good. Seems to be in a good state. Eats normally.