27 Jun You’re Never Alone On A Dock In Muskoka
You know that moment when you are sitting on the dock quietly enjoying a coffee or cocktail, and you feel a presence close by? You know you are not alone, yet you look around and see no one there…
Finally, out of the corner of your eye you sense some movement and there it is, “Dolomedes Tenebrosus” or as it is commonly known, the “Dock Spider”!
Dock spiders or “fishing” spiders are a big part of the cottage country experience. This hairy creature is found throughout our region camping out on the decks and docks of its host. It’s the larger females that we normally see dockside, hanging out waiting for aquatic insects, small minnows and tadpoles. These dock guests belong to the spider family “Pisauridae” or nursery web spiders, meaning they spin an egg sac out of spider silk, laying their eggs inside and carry their little bundle of joy around in their jaws and pedipalps. (The two appendages on the front of a spider’s head.) When the eggs are ready to hatch the mother spider builds a nursery web and guards it until the baby spiders hatch and are ready to venture off into cottage country.
The extraordinary nature of this spider doesn’t stop at being a great Mom, dock spiders can also swim and stay under water for many minutes, using air bubbles trapped on its body and belly as spider scuba gear! They can also walk on water. They artfully move across the top of our lakes, rivers and ponds due to surface tension. With short water repelling hairs, very long legs and lightweight bodies they move effortlessly across the surface without sinking.
These web-less fishing spiders like to sit by the edge of the water (preferably on your dock) and wait for their meal. They stretch out their front legs onto the water to feel the vibrations and target the location of their prey. Although they have eight eyes, it is their amazing sense of touch that awards them with their evening feast.
Dock spiders are one of Canada’s largest spiders, with the females growing up to about 3.5 inches including legs. They are dark brown and grey in colour and many have a stripe on each side of their body.
Fortunately, these creatures have very little interest in us and scurry away to hide as we approach. Unless you mistakenly step on a dock spider or threaten its young, it is very unlikely that you will ever get bit.
While I’m sure these these arachnid giants have initiated many a cottage country phobia, we hope the next time you see one resting upon your towel or sunning itself on your dock you put down your flip flop and reflect on the wonder of your new cottage guest.