Monday, May 4, 2020

Episode 523 (5-4-20): Fishing Spiders Can Mean Ambush for Aquatic Prey

Click to listen to episode (4:04)

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 5-1-20.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of May 4, 2020.

MUSIC – ~ 9 sec - instrumental

This week, we feature original music about some semi-aquatic, multi-legged creatures, whose land-dwelling relatives are well-known in nature, human habitats, and human stories and legends.  Have a listen to about 30 more seconds of the music, and see if you know these creatures.  And if you’re fishing for a clue, count to eight.

MUSIC - ~ 27 sec - instrumental

If you guessed fishing spiders, you’re right!  You’ve been listening to “Spider Strike,” by Torrin Hallett, a graduate student at Manhattan School of Music in New York.  Over 40,000 species of spiders occur worldwide, and both real and imagined versions of these eight-legged creatures are a familiar part of human life from corner cobwebs to comic book heroes to various cultural myths.

Fishing spiders are probably less familiar to most people, although these spiders are large and they’ll sometimes wander into houses.  Fishing spiders get their name from their habit of capturing aquatic prey that sometimes includes fish.  More typically, however, these spiders feed on insects.  They can swim, dive, and walk across water to reach their prey. Living along the margins of streams, ponds, or other water bodies, they’re known to anchor themselves to an object near the water, place their front legs on the water surface, and wait to ambush insects whose movements the spiders can detect through surface ripples sensed by the spider’s legs.  In this way, the water surface serves the function that a web provides for many terrestrial spiders.  While fishing spiders don’t make webs to capture prey, they do produce silk to make structures for protecting their eggs; accordingly, they’re classified in the family known as nursery-web spiders.

At [up to] about three inches long, fishing spiders are some of the largest spiders in Virginia.  They aren’t venomous to humans, but they may bite.  Look for them—carefully—along water bodies in vegetation, under rocks, or on trees.

Thanks to Torrin Hallett for composing this week’s music especially for Virginia Water Radio, and we close with the last few seconds of “Spider Strike.”

MUSIC - ~10 sec – instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Spider Strike” is copyright 2020 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission. Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio; as of 2020, he is a graduate student in Horn Performance at Manhattan School of Music in New York.  More information about Torrin is available online at  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio. To hear the complete piece (47 seconds), please click here.

Thanks to Eric Day, Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, for his help with this episode.


Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus), photographed at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Va., June 15, 2019.  Photo by lhjenkins, made available on iNaturalist at (as of 5-4-20) for use under Creative Commons license “Attribtution-NonCommercial 4.0.”  Information about this Creative Commons license is available online at

Six-spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton), photographed in Suffolk, Va., April 7, 2020.  Photo by Kathy Richardson, made available on iNaturalist at (as of 5-4-20), for use under Creative Commons license “Attribtution-NonCommercial 4.0.”  Information about this Creative Commons license is available online at


Used for Audio

BBC News, Fish-eating spiders ‘Widespread,’ 6/18/14.

Eric Day, “Wolf Spiders and Fishing Spiders,” Virginia Tech Department of Entomology/Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication 3104-1586 (ENTO-212NP), 2016, online at

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Arachnida,” online at; and “Nursery-web Spider,” online at

Iowa State University Department of Entomology, “BugGuide/Genus Dolomedes—Fishing Spiders,” online; “Nursery Web Spiders,” online at; and “Order Araneae—Spiders,” online at

Lindsay Lane, “Animal Diversity Web/Dolomedes triton,” University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, online at

Blake Newton, “Nursery-web and Fishing Spiders,” University of Kentucky Department of Entomology, online at

Martin Nyffeler and Bradley J. Pusey, “Fish Predation by Semi-Aquatic Spiders: A Global Pattern,” PLOS One, 6/18/14, online at  This reference (pp. 9-10) was Virginia Water Radio's source for the idea that fishing spiders use the water surface in a similar manner to how terrestrial spiders use their web to capture and locate prey. of Oxford, “How Can Spiders Locate Their Prey?” 5/22/19, online at

Howard Russell, “Fishing Spiders,” 6/11/10, Michigan State University Extension, online at

Reese Voshell, A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, McDonald and Woodward, Blacksburg, Va., 2002.

Patti Wigington, “Spider Mythology and Folklore,” Learn Religions Web site, 12/23/18, online at

For More Information about Spiders in Virginia and Elsewhere

American Arachnological Society, online at

Prince William Conservation Alliance [Prince William County, Va.], “Discover Northern Virginia Nature: Arachnids/Spiders (Aranae),” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Invertebrates Other Than Insects” subject category.

Following is a link to a previous episode with information about spiders found beside a stream.
Episode 336, 10-3-16.

Following are other music pieces composed by Torrin Hallett for Virginia Water Radio, with episodes featuring the music.
“Corona Cue” – used in Episode 517, 3-23-20, on the coronavirus pandemic.
“Geese Piece” – used most recently in Episode 440, 10-1-18, on E-bird.
“Lizard Lied” – used in Episode 514, 3-2-20, on lizards.
“New Year’s Water” – used in Episode 349, 1-2-17, on the New Year.
“Rain Refrain” – used most recently in Episode 455, 1-14-19, on record Virginia precipitation in 2019.
“Tropical Tantrum” – used most recently in Episode 489, 9-9-19, on Storm Surge and Hurricane Dorian.
“Turkey Tune” – used in Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources of information, or other materials in the Show Notes.

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs
Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
1.5 – animals’ basic needs and distinguishing characteristics.
3.4 – behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 – living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.5 – food webs.
3.6 – ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.

Life Science Course
LS.4 – organisms’ classification based on features.
LS.6 – ecosystem interactions, including the water cycle, other cycles, and energy flow.
LS.8 – community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.
LS.9 – adaptations for particular ecosystems’ biotic and abiotic factors, including characteristics of land, marine, and freshwater environments.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.