The Adventures of "Biglegs"
the Bold Jumping Spider
(species Phidippus audax)
September 26, 2006 - August 13, 2007
Here's his story. Scroll down for more photographs.
On September 26, 2006, I found a bold jumping spider, species name Phidippus audax, with some of the most beautiful chelicerae I have ever seen. He had really long front legs, almost like a crab, so I named him "Biglegs". He also had a burgundy-colored head which seems to be kind of rare in my area. As I knew it would be getting cold soon, I decided to bring him inside and see what would happen. I released him in the kitchen, figuring that's where the most insects would be. On the same day I released this spider in the kitchen, I also brought in a second jumping spider that I thought was a female because it had a large abdomen. I let this one go in the den, my favorite room in my house. A few days later, I found Biglegs in the hallway wandering toward the den. I didn't see him for several days, then he appeared on the wall in the den. He seemed to like this room. Over several months, he took up residency in several favorite locations---in the window locks, behind my framed watercolors, in the light fixture (where he would cast frightening-looking shadows on the wall as he walked around inside), and underneath an old-fashioned phone. He even lived inside the top of the Vegetanimal for a while and would crawl around on the sprouts and look at me from above.
I would also see the other spider once in a while. On average, I saw each spider about once a week. I fed them flies (while they were still available outside) and crickets (from the pet store) every time they came out. The crown molding in that room became the "Spider Highway" because they used it to walk across the room more efficiently. The funniest thing was that I thought the other spider's abdomen seemed to change shape sometimes---on January 23, I discovered there were actually THREE spiders living in the den! Another one snuck in from outside somehow! This one was really fast, so I named it "Speedy".
Biglegs the jumping spider really brightened the dreary winter days. He made me happy when he surprised me on the wall or peered out from behind a painting. Once, I walked into the room after returning from work and saw something fall from a table out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, it was Biglegs. He saw me coming and got startled and dropped to the floor. I scooped him up and gave him a meal. He seemed to know the routine. He didn't mind jumping into the large plastic cup. He seemed to know he was going to get fed next.
Sadly, at around 10 o’clock on the evening of Feb. 24, 2007, I found a dead jumping spider on the basement floor. It had huge front legs, just like Biglegs. I didn't look at it as closely as I should have because I didn't think any of my other spiders had that large of legs, so I was convinced it was Biglegs. His body was still limp, so I was able to mount it. It was encased in resin by a man named Charlie Hines at bedebug.com, who does a really good job with this art form. It was made into a pendant. It wasn't until March 6, 2007, when I almost stepped on a spider that was wandering in front of the refrigerator, that I realized that I'd made a mistake. Biglegs was alive and well! I knew for sure it was him because he had the white tufts and the dead spider did not. Since I have not been able to find out much about their lifespan, I set up a terrarium and plan to keep Biglegs to see how long he lives.
On March 26, 2007, I decided to put Speedy in with Biglegs. It seemed like Speedy had a different abdominal shape and shorter chelicerae than Biglegs---I was almost positive this spider was a female. I must say this spider is not too speedy anymore---it has a voracious appetite and eats about one cricket every two days (Biglegs only eats about one cricket per week). When they first encountered one another, they never got closer than about 1 1/4". Biglegs would wave his long front legs and tap them around, but Speedy didn't seem interested. On April 7, 2007, Speedy constructed an extra large tube-like resting sac. Unlike the other sacs jumping spiders often make, this one had an entrance at each end instead of just one entrance. On April 8, 2007 (Easter morning) they mated. They stayed together inside the resting sac all day. The next morning, only Biglegs was in the sac and she was out roaming around. The next day, I couldn't find Biglegs and Speedy constructed a sac in a new location. With her abdomen being so large, I thought she must have eaten him, especially since I thought I saw his shriveled body underneath her. When I poked around, I found out that somehow, they were embracing one another and I unfortunately disturbed them. I recently read that some type of spider showed affection---the mother and young would stroke each other and stay close together. I wonder if jumping spiders can also be affectionate?
On April 14, 2007, I saw Biglegs sucking on the same cricket that Speedy had caught. He had the head and she had its abdomen. I have never seen spiders share a meal before. On April 15, 2007, I decided to remove Biglegs after reading that often times, the female attacks the male after mating. I don't think Speedy felt like attacking because she was so full of food! I've never seen a spider eat so many crickets so fast. Although Biglegs did seem like he wanted to get away.
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Click on any photo to see a larger view!
Biglegs on September 26, 2006
Biglegs on February 18, 2007
These photos are the first I have taken with my new ring flash, the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX. I was amazed at the power and versatility of this flash. A whole new door has opened for me---I can now photograph insects and spiders indoors! That's why I didn't have any photos of Biglegs after September until now. I know I can do better, but this flash requires more experience and practice. I was still quite happy with most of the photos. He is photographed on a summer poinsettia and on one of my cypress knees.
Notice how he aged---his tufts turned from reddish-brown to white, just like an old man!
February 26, 2007-October 12, 2007
This spider becomes Biglegs's first girlfriend in about another month. Here she is photographed on one of my incense burners made from red clay.
Biglegs on March 11, 2007
Biglegs on March 13, 2007
Biglegs on March 17, 2007
Biglegs on March 25, 2007
This time, I decided to photograph Biglegs on a piece of bismuth from my rock and mineral collection. I really enjoyed the results. Although Biglegs tends to blend into the background sometimes, I like the fact that the background is iridescent, just like his chelicerae. I also took photos of his buddy, "Speedy" on this rock.
I also made these animations from two of the photos above.
Speedy on March 25, 2007
On March 25, 2007, I found Speedy again (at this time, she was still free in the house) and decided to take some photographs on the same piece of bismuth. This was the day I decided to keep her and mate her with Biglegs.
Speedy and Biglegs on April 11, 2007
After mating a few days ago, Speedy has gotten so large that it is difficult to walk around. Her abdomen looks like it is about to burst. Biglegs looks quite small now when compared with her. The photos of them together are not the best, but it is difficult enough to get one spider in focus, let alone two! In the 12th photo, you can see Biglegs displaying his legs. In the 14th photo, Biglegs runs over and gives Speedy a quick touch. She did lay an egg sac about 4-5 days after these photos were taken.
Biglegs on April 21, 2007
Emma on April 24, 2007
I had taken Biglegs out of Speedy's container in fear she might decide to eat him. Biglegs was introduced to a new girlfriend on April 22, 2007. I am calling her Emma (for the Frank Zappa song "Big Leg Emma"). I found her at my parent's house. I noticed that she had white markings instead of orange. Biglegs took to her within only a few hours. They spent the night together inside of the same napkin fold. It took him almost a week to get that close to Speedy. Here's Emma photographed on a piece of bismuth. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, one day, I found Biglegs on top of her with his head near her abdomen end. It didn't look too friendly, but I wasn't sure. The following day, she looked like she was trying to attack him, so I took her out and set her free in the house. I couldn't risk losing Biglegs. So now he is all alone in his cage.
The Babies from Biglegs and Speedy---Born May 25, 2007
On May 25, 2007, I came home from work to find that four baby jumping spiders had emerged from the egg-sac that my pet spider, Speedy, laid around April 16, 2007. She had been mated with Biglegs, so these are their babies. I am surprised that there were only four. I thought there'd be a lot more. Also interesting is how their eyes take up almost their entire face. Their spinnerettes are huge in proportion to their body, as if they just can't be made smaller and still retain their function. Also unusual is the fact that their body hairs seem to be the same length as an adult. They must play some important sensory role. These spiders were actually quite large for babies, measuring about 1/16" long. I let three of them go that afternoon after their photo shoot.
I kept one spider overnight so I could take a few more pictures...
On June 18, 2007, I put Speedy and Biglegs back together. They both seemed quite lonely. Speedy has been eating almost a cricket a day since then (she was only eating a cricket a week before). I noticed that unlike the other jumping spiders I've observed, Speedy seems to have a strong preference for the cricket's hind legs. Most spiders tend to go for the juicy abdomens of insects.
They lived together for nearly 2 months until one tragic day in August, Speedy killed him. She had plenty of crickets to eat and everything---she didn't even suck on his body---it was fully intact with a full abdomen. I guess she just didn't want him around anymore. I never cried so much over a spider before. I really loved this little guy and I will never forget him. He brightened my days for almost a year.
Speedy started to slow down towards the end of September. She was hardly eating anything and wasn't moving too fast. She died on October 12, 2007.
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