Meet the spiders in your house with Travis McEnery!

Have you ever found a spider in your home and wondered whether or not you should evict it? If you are a dedicated arachnophile, perhaps you peacefully coexist with spiders no matter their size or habits. But not all spider housemates are equally polite, and you may want to be a little more selective about which spiders you accept as tenants. Some important considerations include the following: Will they make messy cobwebs and leave prey remains around the place, or are they tidy and discreet? Do they hang out in their webs all day, or move around the house, popping up in unexpected places to startle you with erratic movements? And is there any risk of the spiders defending themselves by biting human, feline, or canine members of the household? 

The answers these questions (and many more) can be found in the outstanding new youtube series The Spiders in Your House created by “amateur” arachnologist Travis McEnery. This post is an introduction to the series and Travis. I am a huge fan of both, and you should be too! 

One of Travis’ first videos, focused on the Common House Spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum).

These videos are deeply researched, thoughtful, and often hilarious profiles of spiders that you can probably find in or around your own house. I am continually impressed by Travis’ ability to get to the bottom of questions about the spiders he covers. I put “amateur” in scare quotes above when describing him because Travis’ approach to arachnology and the videos he creates is anything but. As a professional arachnologist myself I have learned something new in almost every video (like what was really behind that Mazda recall blamed on yellow sac spiders!), and Travis is directly contributing to spider science through original observations and experiments (he is the creator of my new favourite experimental method for assessing spider biteyness: the cheese test).

Hit play on this video to see the cheese test in action, but definitely also go back to the beginning and watch the whole thing! This episode on yellow sac spiders is just fantastic.

Through his videos, Travis is breaking down barriers between lay people, casual arachnofiles, and professional arachnologists by not only presenting information from the scientific literature in a fun and accessible way, but also by going directly to the scientists behind the studies to get additional context on their findings and sharing what they have to say with the audience. Also, the theme song absolutely slaps.

Click play to hear the theme song.

Another reason I love Travis’ work on this series is that he is constantly learning and sharing that process with the audience. When a fellow arachnologist pointed out a small mistake in one of his videos (on the false widow spiders), he made a whole new video correcting it and in the process shone a light on the messiness of science (we all make mistakes, all the time, and learning from them is a big part of science!) and the value of open communication, collaboration, and a supportive community. This ended up being one of my favourites!

The video correcting a mistake in the episode on false widow spiders.

Head over to Travis’ youtube channel for more excellent videos, consider subscribing, and let him know what you think in the comments! He is super responsive to questions and suggestions, and I am sure you will enjoy learning from him as much as I do! You can also support him and find even more content on his Patreon.

For a bit more information on Travis and his motivation for the series, here’s a piece in The Globe and Mail in which I also appear (talking about the spread of misinformation about spiders). I often lament the lack of factual information about spiders on the internet, and I am extremely happy to see Travis contributing such excellent content and the overwhelmingly positive response to it.

Entomology bandana fundraiser

UPDATED (18 Nov 2021) with new bandana design & corrected species list!

The Student and Early Professional Affairs Committee of the Entomological Society of Canada is selling bandanas to raise money for its Annual Scholarship Fund, which supports entomology graduate students working at Canadian universities.This 100% cotton bandana, available in red or charcoal gray, is printed with the logo insects* of the ESC and all of the regional entomological societies, plus a bonus arctic wolf spider to represent the northern territories. The beautiful art was created especially for the ESC by Mary Capaldi, and you can find more of their fabulous work, much of it entomology-themed, here.

You can pre-order bandanas on Etsy now, or by contacting me by email or on twitter (if you live in Montreal, we can avoid the shipping costs). We anticipate that the bandanas will be available for shipping around the time of the 2021 ESC JAM in November, in plenty of time for holiday gift-giving. This is the perfect fieldwork accessory for you or the arthropod enthusiast in your life!

*featured taxa:

ESC – Grylloblatta campodeiformis

ESBC – Boreus elegans

ESAb – Chortophaga viridifasciata Apamea devastator

ESS – Melanoplus bivittatus

ESM – Cicindela formosa generosa

ESO – Danaus plexippus

SEQ – Limenitis arthemis arthemis

AES – Rhagoletis pomonella

Arctic wolf spider – Pardosa glacialis

Inspidered arts and crafts

Now that I am finished with my MSc (yay!) I have great plans for dedicating more time to blogging. Please stay tuned for new posts about spider biology and natural history soon! For now, allow me to ease back into the blogging swing of things with this post celebrating spiders in art.  

Do you love spiders? Are you into fibre art, digital art, or pen/paint/crayon-on-paper art? Then this post is for you! Here are some creative arts and crafts projects that are sure to inspider.



Black widow in watercolour pencils by Chris Buddle

I received this beautiful black widow artwork by Chris Buddle in the mail just the other day. Spiders are of course perfect subjects for drawing and painting. Not confident in your artistic abilities? Why not start with this simple spider web project using crayons and watercolours? This would be a very fun activity to do with young arachnophiles. I especially love this tangled web made by the blog author’s daughter.

Spider word art 


Black widow and fly word art. Original photo by Sean McCann, word art created by Mike Boers.  Text from my thesis!

For Christmas, I was the lucky recipient of framed prints of this brilliant artwork. Mike Boers used his coding expertise to generate creative word art from Sean McCann‘s photographs and text about the subjects of the photos.


Jumping spider word art. Original photo by Sean McCann, word art by Mike Boers. I am not sure where the text for this one came from, but it is all about jumping spiders!

A digital image consists of an array of pixels that can be represented by a matrix of numbers for each colour channel. The value of each entry in these matrices represents the intensity of the colour of that particular pixel. Mike replaced each of the pixels in three colour channels (magenta, cyan, and yellow) with a letter from a chunk of text. In the first image above, he used the three chapters of my thesis about black widows! If you click on one of the images above to enlarge it, and concentrate really hard on reading only the pink letters, for example, you might be able to make out some of the text. The size of each letter corresponds to the colour intensity value of the corresponding pixel.

Knitted accessories


Socks knitted by Samantha Vibert (photo: Sean McCann)

My friend and fellow arachnologist Samantha Vibert knitted these fabulous socks for me last year. Here is a free pattern that is very similar. The spider chart could be used on any knitted object, not just socks. I’ve recently seen spiders in some high-fashion items like this sweater from Hermès, which unfortunately has the silk coming out the wrong end of the spider and costs more than the 10-day spider identification course being offered by the American Museum of Natural History in Arizona this summer (I’ll let you guess which one I plan to invest in). Luckily, if you can knit, you can create beautiful, affordable, and anatomically correct spider-embellished garments and accessories that far outshine any commercially available product!

Spider_mitts_ RaphaëlDury_photo

Jumping spider fingerless mitts made by me (photo: Raphaël Dury)

Speaking of spidery hand-knits, I recently made these fingerless mitts for entomologist and salticid enthusiast Guillaume Dury. I used this free pattern for the mitts, and modified this pattern to make the jumping spider design.

If you’ve made any spider art recently, or use any of these ideas to make something in the future, I’d love to see them! Feel free to post in the comments, or tweet to @Cataranea on twitter.