The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Teeny tineus, is one of the world’s most common and popular spider species. Its life history includes some unique behaviors; and the history of its discovery and scientific description is both mysterious and creative. The spider is amazingly elusive, hence there is not one single image of the species known to exist.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider is also known as the “Incy Wincy Spider,” “Eency Weency Spider,” “Ipsy Whispy Spider,” and “Ipsy Dipsy Spider.” The species was first described in the nursery rhyme “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” but the words cannot be traced to one individual. Still, the anonymous description was published in the prestigious journal Mother Goose.
The paper has been reprinted hundreds of times, and even set to music. Among the recording artists who have performed the manuscript are Carly Simon (1987, from the album Coming Around Again), Little Richard (1991, from his children’s album Shake It All About), and EliZe (from her 2006 debut album In Control).
Part of the reason for this spider’s apparent scarcity is its preferred habitat: The downspouts of roofline rain gutters. Only one spider occupies each vertical pipe, and it is not an easy life. Down comes the rain and washes the spider out. Luckily, out comes the sun and dries up all the rain. Then the Itsy Bitsy Spider climbs up the spout again. The persistence of the spider is legendary, as it repeats this behavior over and over. The spiders invariably have no flood insurance, yet insist on retaining their residences.
The other reason the spider is seldom seen is that it is very small….Itsy Bitsy in fact. No one knows how long each Itsy Bitsy Spider lives, how it reproduces, the nature of its egg sac (one assumes it is waterproof), or what kind of prey the spiders feed on. Clearly, there is much yet to be learned about the species, and subsequently put into rhyming verses.
What?! You don’t know what day this is? Happy April first, friends.