Category Archives: Michigan spiders

How to milk a spider

Ever wondered how to milk a spider? In this video, Dr. Greta
Binford, a researcher at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon,
extracts venom from a sleeping spider's fangs.

Binford, however, has slightly less cooperative subjects. Binford
collects venom from the world's most dangerous spiders.

Binford jokes she has "the dream job of most 8-year-old boys. I sit and watch spiders catch bugs."

She specializes in the brown recluse spider and its 100 relatives.
Currently, her lab at Lewis & Clark College houses 600 spiders
collected in the U.S., Africa, Peru and elsewhere.

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Pictures of Michigan Spiders

As a part of a continuing series on Michigan spiders, here are some images.  I’ve identified them as best I can with Latin and common names.  I’ll be adding to this from time to time to make it as complete as I can; the end of this post has some more sources.

Jumping spiders

"Jumping Spider" by Hamilton Images; all rights reserved, used with permission

This jumping spider was photographed in Rockwood, MI in the Lake Erie Metropark.

David Cappaert, Michigan State University,; This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

This jumping spider,  Platycryptus undatus  (De Geer, 1778), was photographed in Washtenaw County.

Crab spiders (Misumenops)

Photograph by stylurus.
All rights reserved, used with permission

This crab spider was photographed in Dearborn, MI.

Orb Weaver Spiders (Araneus)

Photograph by IvanTortuga.
All rights reserved, used with permission.

This cross orbweaver spider, Araneus diadematus, was photographed in Portage, MI on the Bicentennial Trail.

Northern Michigan spiders (and other inverts): the Backyard Arthropod Project from Atlantic Mine, MI

Every once in a long while, you run across something so wonderful you have to share.

I have been tracking hits to the Google search Michigan spiders, ever since an odd combination of page text about automated web browsing tools unearthed a bunch of folks trying to identify the spiders crawling across their day lilies.

Today’s search logs turned up this amazing resource, the The Backyard Arthropod Project
A Field Guide to the North Side of Old Mill Hill, Atlantic Mine, MI
. The author writes:

This started out as a typical ranting blog over on Livejournal, but it turns out that, overall, I’m a happy sort of guy and don’t really have that many things to rant about. As of February 2007, it has instead turned into a project to document every arthropod that I can find on our property (about 9 acres on the north slope of Old Mill Hill in the Keeweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan). This includes insects, spiders, other arachnids, crustaceans, and pretty much anything I find with an exoskeleton. There should be at least one new arthropod every week, for as long as the variety holds out (which could be years). I’ll also randomly inject whatever thoughts happen to occur to me at the time, although I’ll try to stick with at least some connection to the topic at hand. When I run out of arthropods, maybe I’ll start in on the plants.

While I have always been interested in insects and other arthropods, I unfortunately have zero formal training in entomology (I am an extractive metallurgist by profession), so I’m basically trying to learn arthropod taxonomy as I go. I will doubtless make many mistakes, please don’t hesitate to correct me when I am wrong.

Go, look. There are pictures, there are bugs – arachnids, isopods, diptera, cutworm moths, crickets, katydids. There are tags: found in house and found in yard stand in equal prominence. 9 acres in the UP yields plenty of bugs, in season, and season is year-round, as the presence of the snow fly – Chionea valga will attest.

This is why people live in the UP! Bugs, all with Latin names!

Infected spider bite = MRSA? Cases at Pinckney, Howell

This is not medical advice; if you suspect you have an infected spider bite, seek medical advice from a professional.

Saw this in the Ann Arbor News online:

Individual cases of the powerful drug-resistant form of staph infection known as MRSA were confirmed Monday in a Pinckney elementary school and Tuesday at Howell High School at the Parker Campus.

Pinckney Community Schools Superintendent Dan Danosky said Farley Elementary School principal Lynda Henderson was alerted to a girl with a suspected "infected spider bite," one of the indications of MRSA – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The Livingston County Department of Public Health was contacted immediately, he said.

This site gets enough queries for "michigan spiders" that my eyes perk up whenever I see that.  Some more googling around got page 1 hits for MRSA and turmeric, but I didn’t want to quote any of them until I found some research.  What I did get was this:

0546 Curcumin and Bisdimethyl Curcumin Isolated from Curcuma longa Inhibit the Growth of Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria

Y.C. KIM1, Y.-O. YOU2, S.L. JEONG2, H.H. YU2, S.H. HAN2, and K.-J. KIM2, 1 Wonkwang Univ, Iksan City, South Korea, 2 School of Dentistry, Wonkwang University, Iksan, South Korea

Objective: Antibiotic resistance is the one of important problem in dental and medical fields. Therefore, new agents are needed to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from acute oral infection.. In the present study, we investigated the antimicrobial activity of Curcuma longa (C. longa) and the antibacterial components, curcumin and bisdemethyl curcumin, from C. longa has been isolated and identified by MS, 1H-NMR, and 13C-NMR.

Update: since the last time I edited this, a short book (more of an FAQ than anything else) has been published on MRSA; see Hernan Chang’s MRSA and Staphylococcal Infections as a readable mainstream medical review.  (Summary of preventative recommendations in three words: wash your hands.)

Michigan Spiders: Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia)

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Big Spido
Big Spido, originally uploaded by gkretovic.

Also known as a Black and Yellow Argiope, Orb Weaver, Writing Spider, or Scribbler.

Photo courtesy of Yooper and Flickrite gkretovic .


Bug Guide:

Hammond, G. 2002. "Argiope aurantia" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 22, 2007 at

Posted by Edward Vielmetti from Flickr.


Brown recluse spider – not a common Michigan spider

Looking at the logs from my Michigan spiders page there are a lot of hits on the Brown Recluse pages.  I thought I’d clip and summarize a few of the better resources on the net on that topic, with a specific eye toward that spider’s presence in Michigan.

Before I do anything remember that some spider bites can be life threatening, and that some wounds from other conditions mimic spider bite wounds.   If bitten, remain calm and seek medical attention.

First, as to whether the spider is common to Michigan or not – let’s look at some maps.  From Brown Recluse Spider by Michael F. Potter, urban entomologist from the University of Kentucky:


Distribution of the brown recluse spider (dark shading) and other species of Loxosceles spiders in the U.S. (light shading) (adapted from distribution map of R. Vetter, Univ. Calif. Riverside)  As you can see, the nearest distribution is mid-Indiana and southern Ohio.

Second, as to whether a particular bite is from a brown recluse or not, and the diagnosis of the wounds you get (nasty necrotic sores), the Potter article has this to say:

Spider bites are difficult to diagnose, even by physicians. Contrary to popular belief, it is exceedingly hard to diagnosis a brown recluse spider bite from the wound alone. Many medical conditions mimic the necrotic-looking sore from a recluse bite, including bacterial and fungal infections, gangrene, and diabetic or pressure ulcers. Several recent misdiagnoses have arisen from outbreaks of drug-resistant infections by Staphyloccus aureus. The bacterium produces painful skin lesions that resemble recluse bites, and can run rampant in close living quarters such as hospitals, nursing homes, summer camps, military barracks, and correctional facilities. Similar-looking lesions can also be caused by other types of insects and arthropods.

I’ll spare you the pictures, though you should go look if you need to.   Vetter has an article Causes of Necrotic Wounds other than Brown Recluse Spider Bites (2004, UC Riverside) in which he concludes that medical personnel vastly overdiagnose brown recluse spider bites even in places where those spiders are never found:

Throughout the United States, spiders get blamed as the cause of many dermatological wounds in medical diagnoses.  In virtually every case, NO spider is seen nor felt inflicting a bite, nor is the alleged spider collected in the incident.  “Potential spider bite” diagnoses are made solely on the symptoms of the lesion.  In the case of necrotic wounds, “brown recluse spider bite” is a very common conclusion of medical personnel throughout North America including such ludicrously inhospitable places as Canada and Alaska where no brown recluses have ever been found.  This is in spite of the fact that the brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is native only to the South and central midwestern states (circumscribed by southeastern Nebraska south to Texas, east to Georgia/westernmost tip of South Carolina and southernmost Ohio with additional rare finds being made beyond this area).

The American Medical News from the AMA in 2002 has a story Convenient culprit: Myths surround the brown recluse spider

The reputation of the shy, retiring Loxosceles reclusa far exceeds the spider’s range, confusing efforts to diagnose or accurately track the true incidence of its bite.

In short: it probably wasn’t a brown recluse that’s responsible for that spider bite in Michigan.

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Michigan spiders, and the BugGuide

The Michigan DNR has details on two spiders found in  Michigan: the northern black widow spider, Latrodectus variolus, and the extremely rare Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa).  The northern black widow is further described in an entomology fact sheet from Ohio State University Extension, and there’s a comprehensive collection of articles on Latrodectus at

Spiders of the Douglas Lake Region is a monograph written by Olive Thomas in 1952 at the University of Michigan Bio Station near Pellston, MI.  It’s listed on the U of Michigan’s Deep Blue service, with a note "Access restricted to on-site users at the UM Biological Station".

Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology has a newsy article about Michigan spiders, and some suggestions for integrated spider management.  And if you want to catch spiders, there’s a nice how-to on catching spiders with a headlight.

eMedicine’s article on Spider Envenomations, Widow is thorough and up to date and aimed at physicians.

A comprehensive guide to black widow spiders and other spiders of medical importance is maintained by Louis Caruana, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Texas State University-San Marcos.

If you want lots of pictures, start at BugGuide, which uses Drupal’s taxonomy system to its fullest advantage to let you browse through a nice taxonomy of bugs.


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