Researchers tracking aggressive spider species that thrives after hurricanes

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Flooding, strong winds, and power outages are a few things people often associate with hurricanes.

But spiders? Not so much. However, a team of researchers is studying a species of aggressive spiders that live in storm-prone areas before and after storms hit. Some experts at North Carolina State University commented on the study.

“No man-eating spiders, luckily,” said entomologist Matt Bertone. He is the director of the North Carolina Plant Disease and Insect Clinic at N.C. State.

Bertone wants to be clear: the spiders aren’t aggressive toward humans.

“These spiders are not going to be aggressive towards humans,” he said. “Spiders, in general, are not aggressive towards humans. Bites from spiders are very rare and basically spiders are our friends and not our enemies.”

The research team tracked subtropical storm Alberto and hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018.

“They suggested — and it’s a good suggestion — that in these (storms), spiders, after the hurricanes, the ecosystem is a little bit disrupted, so they may survive (and) be more aggressive to capture more food and to be competitive against similar spiders. And so, that’s really the gist of what they were seeing,” said Bertone.

“Basically, certain behaviors are more beneficial for the survival of these organisms.”

The study found the more aggressive spider’s offspring had a better chance of surviving into winter.

“One of the things I saw was that this was one of the first studies to actually study the same populations before and after storms, whereas other studies had only come in after the storms. And, it was difficult to say what they were doing beforehand, so knowing and having more studies of this sort, especially with climate change and other unpredictable weather, is really important to understand how animals and other organisms will behave,” Bertone said.

He hopes to see more studies like this, especially in North Carolina.

Bertone said the species of spiders studied is not very common in North Carolina, but can be found roaming around the area.

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