Earth Watch

SPINNING A SPIDER GUIDE

O ntario has more than 800 species of spiders, very few of which are dangerous to people. Yet arachnophobia afflicts many Canadians; a 2015 Angus Reid poll revealed that almost a third are afraid of spiders. A new Ontario Nature guide aims to both showcase the province?s fascinating range of arachnids and debunk misconceptions about their behaviour. A Guide to Some of Ontario?s Spiders explores more than 30 species, including colourful jumping spiders with their charismatic eyes, crab spiders that ambush their prey, orb-weaving spiders that create beautiful webs and remarkable ant-mimic spiders that resemble and act like the species they feed on. According to Dan Schneider, an interpretive naturalist for the Grand River Conservation Authority, spiders are nature?s most effective predators of insects ? an ecological role that moderates insect populations and helps humans by reducing invertebrate pests. Spiders are also an important food source for other animals, such as songbirds, fish and salamanders, thus playing a significant role in the food web. ?I hope the guide brings more attention to, and appreciation for, this remarkable and valuable group of predators,? says Schneider, whose articles for this magazine served as a basis for the guide. ?It will give interested people a way to identify and better understand the spiders that live with and around us.? Schneider also expects that learning more about the species will help to curb arachnophobia. The fear stems from periods in human history when a wider variety of spiders existed whose bites were lethal to humans. Today, there is really just one species that poses a significant risk to Ontario residents ? the shy and rare northern widow ? and even its bite is rarely fatal. A Guide to Some of Ontario?s Spiders follows the format of popular Ontario Nature guides to dragonflies and damselflies, and butterflies and moths. It is available at ontarionature.org/spiderguide. ?Noah Cole ,Orchard orbweaver: Most Ontario spiders are harmless.

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