Thursday, May 3, 2012

Woodlouse Hunter Spider

Woodlouse Hunter - Dysdera crocata
We found a few of these spiders while turning over rocks at Boom Island.  They feed exclusively on Woodlice (order Isopoda), which are also know as Potato Bugs, Pill Bugs, Sow Bugs, Roly-polys, and Isopods.  Despite the common names, they are not "bugs" or insect, but land dwelling crustaceans.

The Woodlouse Hunter has an oversized set of chelicerae, or jaws, used for piercing the isopod's hard shell.  They usually live under rocks, and the spider pictured was under a large rock with dozens of isopods.  As we watched the spider, Naomi and Adele cautioned me to be careful because it might bite.  I told them that most spiders don't bite and everything was fine.  It turns out they do bite, but other than causing some irritation, the bite is harmless.

Some of the rocks we turned over we through into the river to make an island, as the kids called it.  We made sure every critter was off the rocks before tossing them into the water.  I'm glad my kids shared my concern for the welfare of all the critters, even the ones that bite.  Ok, I guess if we were really, really concerned, we wouldn't have thrown their home into the water in the first place, but I believe a bit of hands-on fun and exploration goes a long way to creating a long term ethic of caring for the environment, and the sort of "don't touch, it's nature" attitude does not.