For spider questions, that is. Many of the female spiders are becoming larger and more obvious as they prepare to lay eggs, and this leads to an increase in spider calls to the nature centre.
We usually get the most calls about this particular species. It's a Jewel Spider or Jewelled Araneus (Araneus gemmoides), and it's one of the biggest spiders in Alberta. The abdomen of a female can easily be as large as the tip of your thumb.
Jewel Spiders are most easily identified by their size and the two large bumps on the top of the abdomen. They're sometimes known as Cat Spiders, since some people see the image of a cat's face in the abdomen's patterns.
Jewel Spiders are in the orb weaver group, which means they build a classic flat web. The webs are often found in areas that get evening light, like a porch or window frame. Moths and other insects attracted to the light end up getting trapped in the orb web. A pretty neat hunting trick.
If you find a Jewel Spider on or near your home, the most important thing to remember is that they're actually quite harmless to humans. In fact, they're fairly shy and will do their best to retreat as long as they're given the opportunity. When you stop to think about it, spiders like this are doing us a service by keeping the local insect population in check.
For more information on this and other local spider species, look for Marianne and the Kerry Wood Nature Centre's display at the flower show at Parkland Nurseries on Saturday, 20 August 2005.