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August 28, 2010 at 5:00 AM

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Giant house spiders and European cross spiders seek dinner and a date

Posted by Kevin Fujii

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

European cross spiders, recognizable by white dots that form a cross on their backs, are maturing now and building bigger webs that are noticeable to their human neighbors. The orb weavers recycle their webs daily by eating them and producing new ones shortly before dawn. This European cross spider hangs out in the arboretum near the University of Washington.

Photojournalist Erika Schultz excitedly accepted this assignment. She rented a Canon MP-E 65mm f2.8 1-5x macro lens to get intimate with our eight-legged neighbors. This lens requires manually focusing. Schultz says, "It was difficult, but really fun, to photograph. Spiders and webs don't stay still. Spiders scurry. Webs blow in the breeze. My movements can scare them. When using such a fine precision lens, it's challenging to hand hold the camera and lens and try to focus on the creature's eyes."

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Shannon Bowley, 22, of Renton, holds a Microhexura idahoana. She found it near Mount Rainier.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The giant house spider is also active this time of year.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

A giant house spider roams Shannon Bowley's Renton home looking for mates. "They don't have any brains," said Burke Museum spider expert Rod Crawford. "They don't know they're not going to find a mate in the living room." Though some are as big a hand, they are harmless to people.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Renton resident Shannon Bowley overcame her fear of spiders by keeping them as pets. She lets her male giant house spider run up and down her arm. An amateur arachnologist, Bowley raises spiders and experiments with their diets.

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