How long for a spider to starve
November 1, 2013 12:59 AM   Subscribe

How long will a spider, trapped in a car, take to die?

There is a spider trapped in my car somewhere. I saw it once, it was fairly small with a thick body, but at the time I was in a rush and left it alone. Now it has disappeared, and the only mark of its presence are the webs it keeps spinning over the steering wheel and dashboard. Its not particularly fun to get covered in cobwebs each morning but I don't think I can track the little blighter down. I'm assuming its likelihood of finding food is pretty low inside my car, so how much longer will I have to put up with cobwebs in my hair? I'm afraid I can't tell you what exact breed of spider, but I am in the UK
posted by Cannon Fodder to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If there's a new web each day, the spider will be near the web. Don't disturb the web, but drop something small, like a breadcrumb, into the centre of it and the spider should come out to see what's been caught in the web. Then you can catch it and let it go.
posted by essexjan at 1:33 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you happen to have a tuning fork, gently put it on the web. The spider will think it's prey and rush out to grab it.
posted by Solomon at 1:58 AM on November 1, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: First of all, your problems may not be the work of just one spider, but of a colony of them. Webs are energy intensive constructions for spiders, and if you are knocking them down each day, and yet they are respun each night, this argues not only for a colony of spiders, but a well fed one at that, that can support a loss of web each night, and yet continue to spin enough to stay fed. Just knocking down spider webs repeatedly is usually enough to get them to relocate, but you're not successful doing this, so your spider issue may have to wait for winter's cold to further stress the spiders, before you win the game.

Cars are really pretty porous to insect life, especially at the small end of the scale, but if you keep knocking down the webs morning and night, with say, something like a feather duster, and go up under your dashboard, under your seats, and around all your door seals, at each and every use of your car, you're putting significant selection pressure on the spiders. You'd have to step up to fairly powerful organic phosphate insecticides, which you might not want to be breathing, inside the car, to have a chemical effect on them, and that would not be exactly a direct chemical attack on the spiders, but upon whatever gnats or other insect prey upon which the spiders are feeding.
posted by paulsc at 2:06 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you have an outdoor light shining on your car, you might want to turn it off until you get a hard frost. Spider can't tell that the prey is beyond the windshield.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:01 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Speaking as someone who had performed starvation experiments on spiders (disclaimer: this was a real experiment with resulting publications and everything. I promise that it was proper Science!): you could be talking from 1-6 months in a closed system. Your car, however, is not a closed system at all so I'd assume that the spider is capable of coming and going - it just likes the steering wheel habitat :)
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 3:36 AM on November 1, 2013 [42 favorites]

Best answer: Unlike ARW, I did a completely non-scientific experiment. All you insect-tender-hearts will want to skip this.

I got curious about the same thing when a large spider trapped itself in my bathtub. That's a pretty closed system. The tub hasn't been used in a couple of years, it couldn't get out, no water source, moderate temperatures. The spider didn't build any webs.

My subject lasted about ten days. I suspect it died of dehydration more than starvation.
posted by trinity8-director at 10:25 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's currently mating season for spiders in the UK when they become much more active and roaming... it/they'll probably clear off / become much less visible in a few weeks.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:58 PM on November 1, 2013

Response by poster: Aw man it didn't even occur to me that the little blighter could escape. I figured that if he was persistently webbing my car interior he didn't have a better alternative. I may have to rustle out the varmint after all...
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:18 AM on November 2, 2013

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