Gigantic dock spider enjoys being hand fed
Dock spiders are the largest species in Canada. They are a common sight at cottages and at almost every lake in North America. They commonly reach three inches across, a size that can make even the bravest of us dive into the water for escape. But luckily, dock spiders aren't very interested in people and pose no threat to us.
This dock spider, affectionately know as "Larry", was seen lazing in the sun, watching closely as the dock was being repaired very close by. He wasn't at all shy about people walking past and trepidation turned to fascination. Horse flies buzzed around and took chunks out of unwilling victims at every opportunity and Larry might have even been able to sense this. With a GoPro in hand, our cottager inched closer and began recording Larry. Sure enough, a large horse fly landed in front of Larry and he lunged for it.
Appreciation for Larry instantly soared and our cottagers had a thought. As they swatted horse flies, they decided to see what this monster would do if they served them up as a snack. Nobody was brave enough to hold their hand out, and for good reason. Dock spiders have sharp fangs and venom that would leave a human in a lot of pain. They have lightning quick reflexes and sharp vision too. No, Larry needed to be served from a safe distance. A dead horsefly was mounted on a skewer and wiggled in front of the spiders nose.
Using his front legs to grasp the fly and pull it in close, the spider bit right into it. Even when holding one fly in its mouth, this spider was quick to lunge at or grab a second. Surprisingly, it even attacked and ate other large spiders on the dock. Known for being hunters instead of web spinners, dock spiders will eat large insects and even very small fish. They dangle their front legs in the water and sense vibrations created by approaching prey. This is one of few instances where an invertebrate is capable of preying on a vertebrate.
As if all of this wasn't creepy enough, dock spiders are able to run on top of water due to a waterproof coating on their legs. They can even trap air against their bodies, enough to scuba dive for up to half an hour as they hunt or hide from predators. They can literally be anywhere at the cottage or lake, even watching you as you swim past.
It's perfectly normal to be squeamish about these fearsome creatures. In fact, fear of arachnids is the second most common irrational fear among humans, surpassed only by the fear of public speaking. But before we make a run for it, or worse, grab a rolled up newspaper, consider that these dock "monsters" can see us clearly and are determined to avoid contact with us whenever possible. And if we leave them where they are, they are ridding your cottage area of other spiders and of those incredibly annoying horseflies. You may even want to try getting close enough to hand feed one to show your appreciation. Or not....