a parson drops by for a visit

I’m just catching up with some of the sightings over the past week. This Parson Spider (Herpyllus ecclesiasticus) was found wandering around on the living room wall on August 9th. Of particular interest to me, is that I don’t generally find this species of spider in the house, but did find another on August 30th last year. I found that one in the kitchen sink. I’m thinking that this wandering around inside the house may be a seasonal thing.

This species belongs to the Ground Spider Family (Gnaphosidae). These spiders run quickly over the ground as they hunt for prey. The Parson Spider gets its name for the black with white markings that resemble a parson’s clothing.

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9 Responses to “a parson drops by for a visit”

  1. Laura Says:

    Can you tell me it’s not as big as it looks in your pic… so I won’t have nightmares!

  2. burning silo Says:

    Laura – The size is just an illusion — one of those digital smoke and mirrors things. It’s quite a small spider and entirely harmless. (-:

  3. Laura Says:

    Okay – I’ll sleep soundly now. ;-)

    Off topic, but are you a leftie? Cause your smiley things go in the opposite direction than mine.

    BTW: I loved those last pics you posted of the monarch chrysallis – very beautiful!

  4. burning silo Says:

    Laura – I should probably be putting up a “Warning – Spider photo below!!” notice above some of my posts. Either that, or include a ruler in the photo to provide some scale.
    As for my smileys… yes, they do seem to be backwards compared to most that I see. I’m not exactly a lefty, but fairly ambidextrous — but I think the main reason that my smileys are as they are is that I’m something of a nonconformist… always had to go the opposite way than the rest of the crowd. (-:
    Thanks about the monarch chrysalis. A friend has just suggested that I try to do some time-lapse photo sets of a Monarch as it ecloses, so I may give that a shot this week.

  5. robin andrea Says:

    I tried to leave a comment here yesterday, but for some reason my connection just kept spinning and wouldn’t let me into the comment area.

    Great photo, Bev. It must be spider season. We’ve been out photographing spiders too. Found a nice big one in the door frame of the sliding glass door of the guest house. I’m not very good at ID’ing spiders, and I can not figure out how to use bugguide. I’m fairly good with search engines and databases, but I can never find the right way to search bugguide and get more than three or four photograph results. What’s your favorite way to ID a spider?

  6. burning silo Says:

    Robin – Late summer is an excellent time to see spiders. This year’s young spiders are often quite large and making webs all over the place as they reach their penultimate stage in the life cycle.
    For spider identification, I usually begin with a field guide entitled Spiders of the North Woods by Larry Weber (I always think the author’s name is so appropriate!). It’s not a very big book, and it is really geared more towards the Great Lakes region, but many of the spiders are widely seen across North America, so it’s quite useful. The other thing about it is, that even though it contains photos of only about 100 or so species, they’ve been carefully chosen and represent the most common species that most people are likely to encounter. And one more good thing about it is that the sections are broken down by family, with diagrams of eye arrangements, shapes, traits, etc… that usually differentiate each family, so it’s very good for learning how to decide which family a certain spider would belong to. That’s actually the biggest challenge in spiders — figuring out which family and then going from there. After that, I start looking around for matches online. I like the images on the Canadian Arachnologist website (I hope that link will work). However, you do have to pretty much know which family of spider you have before looking through the images. That’s the same thing you’ll encounter at Bugguide.Net. It works best when you know which family you’re dealing with. For example, here is a link to the image files of the Wolf Spider Family (Lycosidae). There are many pages of images. Unfortunately, they stick the “unidentified” spiders of that species at the very beginning of the image files, so it seems not that helpful, but if you start working back through the pages, you’ll get to a page where the spiders are actually ID’d down to at least genus, and even to species in some cases. As you look for spiders on BugGuide.net, do be sure that you’re looking in the IMAGES tag that is above the info on taxonomy or you won’t see all of the images represented under that family. The DATA tag is also useful to see if a spider species is represented in your geographic region — but keep in mind that the data only includes spiders reported by a photographer who has posted a photo of that species. My “other” way of finding species is to sometimes enter the spider family name into Google’s image search and see what I get. Once again, it requres knowing the family name of the spider you’re looking for — so that’s why Larry Weber’s book is quite helpful. I’ve heard that there’s a Golden Book of spiders, but I haven’t checked into that. I imagine there are other spider books around — I’ve borrowed a few from our library, but haven’t found one I’d recommend. The Audubon guide to Insects and Spiders of North America is reasonably good for spiders, but again, just a starting point. Spiders are definitely somewhat difficult due to the sheer number of species, but then, that goes for a lot of insects too. At first, you just have to stumble along, but in time, you really will find that you’ll start to be able to ID to at least family at a glance, and then to genus in some cases. When it comes down to it, the real enjoyment in spiders is their appearance and interesting behaviour — even if they do remain anonymous.

  7. David Shorthouse Says:

    Bev and other…
    I haven’t stopped by in a while so thought I would post a cursory reponse to your post recent post about finding spider resources, either for the uninitiated or the die-hard.

    Sorry if my inserted mark-up doesn’t work…

    That link to the Nearctic Spider Database’s image gallery works just fine. There’s also an option to begin browsing with a taxonomic sort (i.e. similar-looking spiders on a page starting from most primitive to the more advanced
    Google Map Selector Box: permits “drawing” a box and getting a returned set of images based on known collection records bounded by your box.
    I submitted a dynamically created xml file to Yahoo so they have indexed all the images available as well…don’t neglect that as an option for searching too. But, like Bev mentions this usually means having to know something upfront.

    Hope this helps the hunt a bit.

  8. burning silo Says:

    David – Thanks for stopping by and commenting on that feature. I just gave it a try. Pretty neat!

  9. Mike O Says:

    Allright , I just rescued a parson spider from my kitchen sink . Thanks for the great photo . That really nailed the i.d. , my first parson ever yess !