We first noticed the spider sometime in summer of 2020. He was long-legged, but not long-legged enough to be a daddy longlegs. Fuzzy, but not fuzzy enough to be a wolf spider. Startling, but clearly not one of the poisonous varieties that need to be removed from the premises immediately.
He wasn’t doing any harm, hanging out there on the ceiling of the family room. He might even be doing some good—spiders eat bugs, after all. So we let him stay.
For about three weeks the spider alternately hung out on the ceiling and walls or else hid somewhere in the cracks of the house. Then, at some point, he just disappeared. My husband, daughter, and I assumed he’d either moved on to better habitats or made his way to the great cobweb in the sky (though he didn’t seem to be a web-spinning sort of spider), and we mostly forgot about him.
That fall he was back again, though, or else a spider that looked very much like him and that had also grown slightly bigger was back, hanging out on the ceiling again, eating more (we assumed) bugs, and slipping in and out of view. Again he stayed for a few weeks, then disappeared until spring.
He was braver by spring, hanging out in not just the family room but also the kitchen and my daughter’s bedroom. We’re a bug-friendly family, so we were happy to have him back. Though it was startling to one day open my child’s underwear drawer—and see a spider crawling out.
We were all briefly more wary of him after the underwear incident. But we didn’t want to evict him, so instead we did what any sensible family would do. We let our daughter give the spider a name.
Meet Bob, our pandemic spider. We admitted when we named him that he might well be female, but still, Bob seemed like the right name, so Bob he was.
Bob wasn’t disconcerting at all, once he had a name. He was a known entity, a member of the family, almost, even, a pet. We all smiled when we saw him after that.
One day, Bob got brave and moved down from the walls to the family room floor. We realized he’d moved from the walls to the floor when our cats suddenly became very, very interested in something moving on that floor. “Bob!” we all shouted and, with the help of a stiff piece of cardboard, helped him skitter out the front door, away from curious teeth and claws.
We figured once he’d seen the outside world, Bob would move on to the nearest viable outdoor habitat, but only a couple of days later we found him cheerfully hanging out on the wall of our daughter’s bedroom again. The world is a large place, if you’re a spider, and we hadn’t even really expected him to be able to find his way back inside, especially after the stress of having so recently fled for his life—but there he was. He might be an indoor-outdoor spider, but apparently this was his home, and not just some place he’d conveniently landed.
I finally sent Bob’s picture on to a friend who works with insects at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and she identified him as Olios giganteus—a giant crab spider, also known as a huntsman spider. She also identified him as definitively male, something the other Olios giganteus pictures I turned up on the web also made clear.
Bob spent another few weeks in our house and then, in his Bob way, disappeared again.
My daughter posted a Missing Spider poster on the front door. But male spiders don’t live all that long. In the giant crab spider world, even females usually only last two to three years. Weeks went by, and we took the poster down. At some point in this story, after all, Bob will disappear for good.
But this is not that day. Because this day, more than two months after he last disappeared, Bob showed up again, calmly chilling on the kitchen ceiling, once again a little bigger than the last time we saw him, but otherwise the same old spider we now knew.
Welcome back, Bob. We’re all glad to see you again.