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Hartselle Enquirer

The tale of the not so itsy bitsy spider

By Staff
Spooky creature causes scare for local woman
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
The carcass of an ugly, black, dangerous-looking spider made its way into the Hartselle Enquirer office last week thanks to the concern and curiosity of its finder, Bertha Berry. Its presence raised an immediate negative response from staff members who wanted to know if it was dead or alive. Even though they were told it was no longer capable of moving its eight legs or eight eyes, most declined an offer to take a look inside the cone-shaped white container that held its remains.
"We found it in our yard Monday (Memorial Day). Stephanie (daughter) almost stepped on it. It lived in a hole in the ground with a flap over it," Berry said.
"None of us had ever seen a spider that looked like this so we got on the Internet to see if we could identify it," she explained. "The closest match we could find is a mouse spider whose habitat is in Australia."
She referred to a copy of the information she had found.
It consisted of some photos and facts about mouse spiders. The depiction of a female closely resembled the one found at the Berry home on Peach Orchard Road.
"If this is an Australian spider, I'd like to know what's it's doing in Hartselle and what can be done to get rid of it," she stated.
The information she provided indicated that female mouse spiders have been found to produce copious (large) amounts of highly-toxic venom, which is potentially as dangerous as that of the Sydney Funnel-web spider.
Berry gladly parted company with the specimen on condition that it be turned over to someone at the Extension System office for examination.
The next day, Mike Reeves, district Extension agent, looked at the spider. He agreed that it was mean-looking and not one with which he was familiar.
"Let me do some checking," he said.
After spending several minutes flipping through the pages of two manuals and pulling up several computer files, he offered an educated guess.
"I'd say it's a trapdoor spider. It lives underground like the mouse spider and both look a lot alike. It's found in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee," Reeves said.
Upon further examination, it was revealed that the female trapdoor spider uses a hinged flap to cover and conceal the opening to its burrow.
The spider holds the trap shut with its fangs until it senses vibrations made by passing prey. Then it rushes out, seizes the victim and drags it into its burrow.
It's not a pretty picture for a passing bug, but luckily there's no mention of it being a threat to humans.

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