This week a video called Lucas The Spider went viral. I know because everyone and their mom sent it to me. Which is because I’m a spider enthusiast, to put it mildly. I have 5 pet spiders (Bryan Ferry, Paul Rudd, Bitsy, Patty, Little Grey) that look very much like Lucas.
As a spider justice warrior (that’s what SJW stands for FYI),I’m glad the video exists because it combats negative spider stereotypes. Lucas is also pretty obviously a jumping spider, and those are my favorite kind of spider.
The problem with spider stereotypes is not all spiders are the same. Some spiders even I will admit are not the most appealing. Cellar spiders, for example. They aren’t very bright. With their beady eyes and spindly legs you can barely distinguish them from a bit of a straw. But not jumping spiders. Jumping spiders are the cute cat-like geniuses of the spider world.
If humans ever die out I nominate jumping spiders to evolve into the dominant species on the planet.
For one thing, their eyes. The animator of Lucas played those up, but they really are pretty big. And pretty amazing. They can see colors! They can see almost as well as a cat can, which is very unusual for such a tiny invertebrate and makes them exciting for scientists who do vision research.
They are much smarter than your average bug too. They need to be. Unlike cellar spiders or other web-building spiders, they don’t just build a web and wait for their food to get caught in it. Nope, these little “octokittens” have to hunt their food like a cat, pouncing on it. Some of the brighter ones exploit the dumber web-building spiders. They do this by pretending to be an insect caught in their web and then pouncing when the web builder comes to investigate. This requires planning and the ability to solve problems. In the lab they have been trained to associate colors with rewards and solve rudimentary mazes.
Where they come up a bit short is in the social department. They don’t cuddle. They don’t value cuddling. Most will eat each other, even their siblings. What they won’t eat is you.
I mean first of all they can’t. They are just too small. And yes, those fangs have venom in them, but it’s just such a tiny amount that it’s nothing to worry about. Bites are rare, and the only reason I’ve been bitten is I’ve raised hundreds of jumping spiders. I’ve also raised bees. I’d estimate a bee sting is 200 times more painful than a jumping spider bite. Worst effect I’ve gotten is a small red spot. And frankly I deserved it each time.
Last time it was because I carried an elderly “Heavy jumper” (Hyllus diardi) named Nux on my hand while moving her to another room for a photo shoot. When they get old their little hairs on their feet wear down and they can’t grip as well. She was probably afraid of falling and used her fangs to grip (tarantulas do this too).
That’s the sad part about jumping spiders, they only live about 3 years at the longest. While they don’t bond with people the way some other pets too, they have their own particular personalities and habits that you learn to love. When Nux was old she loved treats like sugar water and tangerines.
Yes, they do eat more than bugs! In fact some of them are almost entirely vegetarian. Unfortunately, keeping spiders does mean keeping bugs for them to eat. And that’s certainly not for everyone. I never want anyone to look in my fridge because I keep a colony of feeder flies in there for my pets. 😱
But even if a pet spider isn’t for you, I love that more and more people appreciate them. And maybe that will save some spider lives. These little spiderbros are just out there hunting for bugs. They don’t mean to disturb you. If you see one, don’t squish it, maybe take a closer look and see how cute they are.
If you want to know more about these guys, feel free to ask me anything in the comments. Also check out my care guide draft and pet jumping spider Facebook group (there is also a more general one is you just appreciate them and aren’t interested in them as pets ).