How to dress a spider in a sparkly jumpsuit

ABSTRACT

Spiders are an extremely diverse species and, as such, require a broad range of outfits to suit their habitat and plans for the day. As well as providing emotional wellbeing, the correct clothing can even help spiders perform at their best. Previous research has described how wearing a fisherman’s cap can aid a spider in hunting for prey (Shelob, 1954), how donning a sturdy pair of boots increases the speed at which spiders can weave their webs (Charlotte, 1952) and how a well-fitting leotard can improve the jumping performance of even the laziest of jumping spiders (ItsyBitsy, 1947). However, the potential behavioural, emotional and locomotory effects of a sparkly jumpsuit have yet to be investigated. Before this can be thoroughly tested, the question of how to dress a spider in a sparkly jumpsuit must be addressed. This paper aims to provide a solution to this challenge, and it is the authors’ hope that it will serve as a methodological starting point for the emerging and important field of Spider Jumpsuit Effects.

METHODS

First, select a spider. The species will depend on the research question you are trying to answer, but within your study species it is best to choose a friendly, cooperative, or even a bold, show-off spider. In our experience, spiders of this nature are best suited to the sparkly jumpsuit; those who are more bashful tend not to respond well to the extra attention such an item of clothing naturally draws.

Once you have selected a spider, you need to take measurements in order to create a jumpsuit that will fit correctly. Measure accurately the inside and outside of all seven leg segments – measuring just the inner and outer leg will not be sufficient. Also measure the length and circumference of both body segments. If your hypothesis demands it, or the spider so desires, also measure the pedipalps so you can make matching sparkly gloves.

Now you should have all the measurements required to make the jumpsuit itself. Lay out the material on a flat surface and cut according to dimensions based on your measurements, example given in Figure 1.

Using a specialist sewing machine needle which is designed for shiny stretchy jumpsuit fabric, stitch together the pieces of the jumpsuit, remembering to leave a hole at one end for the spider’s spinnerets. Leave the front of the jumpsuit open. Now, by hand, sew poppers along the front of the jumpsuit, to allow the spider to easily do up and remove it at will. (N.B. Do not use Velcro to fasten the jumpsuit. Many spiders are very hairy, and this does not go well with Velcro. Similarly, zips can trap the hairs and leave the spider feeling very angry. Buttons will be sufficient if poppers are not available, but in general we found that spiders had difficulty doing them up. Therefore we conclude that poppers are the best solution.

Finally, you need to dress the spider in the jumpsuit. If you have selected a spider with appropriate personality as described above, this should not pose too many difficulties, though it is worth noting that it can take the spider a few attempts to get used to getting all their legs through the legs of the jumpsuit without falling over. Hold the jumpsuit up as you would hold up a pair of trousers for a child to step into – with the opening at the top and the legs hanging down. Instruct the spider to start with one or two legs, threading them into the legs of the jumpsuit, and then do the same one leg at a time until they’re all in. Make sure the spinnerets pop through the hole you left in the jumpsuit – we found that spiders got very frustrated when they tried to produce dragline silk as a safety line before a jump, only to discover too late that the silk had actually been trapped inside the jumpsuit. Now you just need to do up the poppers, and the spider is ready to try out its new sparkly jumpsuit!

CONCLUSION & FUTURE WORK

Though fiddly, making a sparkly jumpsuit for a spider is a rewarding endeavour. It will allow you to test all manner of hypotheses about how clothing affects spider behaviour and happiness. In the future, we hope to develop similar methodological techniques to dress spiders in wetsuits and onesies, which has obvious implications in their general fitness and recreational wellbeing.

Michelle Reeve

Michelle is the host of Clutter, and a recovering spider scientist. She now does a whole bunch of science communication things, and still regularly wrangles arachnids.

3 thoughts on “How to dress a spider in a sparkly jumpsuit

  • March 6, 2018 at 07:51
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    This is great. Even a novice spider wrangler could follow these comprehensive instructions. Does the colour of the jumpsuit matter? Would “go faster” red increase speed and agility? So much we don’t know.

    Reply

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