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Spiders Hibernating

11-24-14  spider 050Spiders that don’t lay eggs and die in the fall have developed several adaptations to survive the cold temperatures and lack of food that winter presents. They seek out microhabitats for protection, increase their resistance to cold and reduce their metabolic rate.

About 85% of spiders that overwinter do so in leaf litter, where they are well insulated against the cold. Most of these spiders assume a rigid position, with their legs drawn close to their body so that the amount of exposed body surface is kept to a minimum. Leaf litter protects spiders from extreme temperature fluctuations and from desiccation. A heavy snow cover ensures a fairly steady temperature of 32° F. regardless of the air temperature, even in weather as extreme as -40 ° F. below zero.

Many of the remaining overwintering spiders can be found under the loose bark of dead trees. Some have no further protection, others, such as the pictured Eastern Parson Spider, spin a silk case within which they spend the winter.

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2 responses

  1. Jon Binhammer

    With invasive, non-native earthworms consuming most of the leaf litter in areas where they are found (generally near human habitation), I wonder what the impact of reduced insulation will be on spiders? Perhaps the fact that the consumption mostly happens the following spring mitigates the impact somewhat, but removal of the duff layer (undecomposed or partially decomposed leaf litter) over time must allow for penetration of the cold, one would surmise.

    November 24, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    • Yes, unfortunately, I think there has to be some effect from the presence of non-native earthworms, and not a positive one. Astute observation.

      November 24, 2014 at 5:49 pm

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