Our Spider Man in San Francisco
John Emery is a spider man.
Oh, he’s not a super hero who clings to city skyscrapers and chases villains and rescues damsels in distress.
He’s the IT manager for Sue Mills,
But he's truly a spider man. He has "his" very own spider cocoon right outside his office window on
In a recent e-mail, he wrote: “My co-workers think I'm strange (they want to kill the spiders) and my friends (and wife) to whom I've been sending pics today (taken with my iPhone through a handheld magnifying lens, using a flashlight for lighting) seem unimpressed.”
So Emery kindly e-mailed some of his photos to the UC Davis Department of Entomology thinking we'd enjoy seeing them and share his excitement.
We did and we do!
"It's like a nature documentary right next to my desk," he wrote. "How lucky am I?”
Frankly, we’re a little envious, too. Today outside my window in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, a mud dauber cruised past and bounced off the window pane. A crane fly bumbled by. Several ants crawled unceremoniously across the ledge.
But a spider home outside my window? I wish!
“I’ve always loved the bees and the bugs,” Emery said. He annually attends the UC Davis Picnic Day, which, like any good picnic, includes bugs.
At this year's Picnic Day, he and his wife (a 2000 graduate of UC Davis with a degree in English), pointed out the insect displays in Briggs Hall to their three-year-old daughter. She didn't seem at all impressed. "She didn't want to hang out near any of the bugs,” Emery lamented. “She was already traumatized by the snakes we'd seen earlier” and “we had to leave.”
Meanwhile, the spiders aren't leaving. Not just yet. "They're probably yellow sac spiders,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses seven million specimens (plus live displays of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Vietnamese walking sticks and black widows spiders).
Unlike a web weaver, a sac spider builds a silken tube or sac. It does so in a protected area, such as under a log, in a corner of a room—or right outside John Emery’s San Francisco office window.
"Omigosh!" exclaimed Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon when he saw the spider sac bulging with little ones. "Look at them all! I think they're yellow sac spiders, but without a specimen, I can't be certain."
Heydon IS certain, however, how many black widows are in an average egg case, a question he’s asked periodically during school tours at the museum. And, ahem, just how many are there? 175. He counted them. Took him an hour. No escapees, either.
Meanwhile, John Emery continues to make us all envious by capturing wonderful images of the spider family outside his office, using an iPhone and a handheld magnifying glass.
But wait! John Emery, our San Francisco Spider Man, is likely to become a bee man.
“I’ve recently been really, really wanting," he said, "to start a bee colony in my backyard.”