With eight eyes staring up at her, a spider stretched out on the sidewalk stopped Krysten Leigh in her tracks. Leigh was walking her dog in Langford on April 24 when she noticed the eight-legged critter out of the corner of her eye.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she said. “I thought it had to be fake ‘cause I’d never something that big.”
Leigh was staring at a Pacific folding door spider, also known as Antrodiaetus pacificus. It wasn’t moving, but had its legs outstretched on the pavement outside Langford’s fire hall on Peatt Road.
She quickly pulled her dog behind her as she grabbed a photo and started circulating it to local pest control agencies – who couldn’t give her an exact answer on its origin.
“This was quite an unusual find,” said Royal BC Museum entomology collections manager Claudia Copley, who knew exacly what it was. “These spiders are rare to see because even though they’re native to Vancouver Island, they usually stay in their burrows underneath lawns and in old growth forests most of their lives.”
They’re called folding door spiders because they use a door made from silk and dirt to surprise prey. They usually grow to about five centimetres or just about two inches. They’re related to tarantulas and some females can live up to 20 years.
What makes it more unusual is that this one was a female, as apparent with its bigger abdomen.
Notably, males come out of hiding during mating season in the fall. Copley believes something disturbed the spider’s burrow, perhaps a sprinkler that flooded the home or someone dug it up accidently.
“They pose no danger to us because they aren’t venomous,” said Copley. “They eat pests like earwigs, [insects and smaller spiders]. To be honest, they’re pretty impressive.”