First, an admission today. I deliberately scheduled this topic to give me an excuse to send birthday wishes to my sister. So:
🎉 Happy birthday, Cory! 🎉
I really enjoy having you for my sister.
Now on to my actual response to today’s Blogtober prompt.
When you look at the insect/arachnid/arthropod world, though, there aren’t a lot of family relationships in the same way we mean for human families. I mean, when I think “family,” I envision closely related individuals helping each other out, older members helping raise younger ones. Two or so parents, maybe a few grandparents, aunts or uncles, and a couple children. I also know folks who prefer their “family of choice,” longtime friends and/or lovers who’ve become as close and supportive as that network of relatives is supposed to be.
But many insects don’t parent their young much more than making sure they have a good source of food: either the plant where the eggs are laid, as butterflies & moths do, or provisioning the nest chamber with paralyzed spiders, as some hornets do. The closest behavior to a mammal-type family might be in the social insects: ants, termites, some bees (such as honey bees) and some wasps. One or more queens lay eggs, one group of daughters tends the eggs while another group forages for food. These kinds of insects are called eusocial (see the wikipedia page here for more information). They’re kind of like really huge extended families. I think I would be completely overwhelmed living in a colony like that. Can you imagine having dozens or even hundreds of sisters/siblings, all of you living wing to wing and buzzing together all the time? It might be nice to have so many partners working alongside you, all of you having a shared purpose. But I admit, the introvert side of me is just overwhelmed.
But another kind of arthropod is different, and still reminiscent of the human family concept. A mother wolf spider carries her egg sac around as she hunts. Then when the eggs hatch, she carries the dozens of tiny spider babies on her back until the babies are grown enough to be on their own. Pretty cool! I once encountered a fairly large spider on a night walk, took a quick cell phone photo, and only later noticed the glnts of light from all the tiny eyes looking back at me from atop the spider’s abdomen! So cool. Wolf spiders don’t spin webs, hunting their prey rather than waiting to trap them. I’ve often encountered wolf spiders while weeding my garden. They’re more than welcome to carry their families through my yard!
I am grateful to my own family for sometimes carrying me on their figurative backs, when I needed it. My friends who’ve done the same, thank you as well. I hope someday to emulate a mother wolf spider, and be able to carry some of you when you need it. But hopefully, not all of you at once! 😁
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