Adding this to the list of things we didn't know existed ...

Okay, so there's a creature called the cat-faced spider (and it will haunt our dreams for the foreseeable future!) and a professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins has such an interest in the spiders that he holds a contest every year to see who can bring him the biggest one. Why? We have no idea ...

cat-faced spider contest

We're with you on this one, Ron. WHY SPIDERS? | Courtesy of GIPHY

Colorado State University's Whitney Cranshaw, Professor of Bio Agricultural Sciences and Pest Management, has run the "How Big is Your Cat-Faced Spider Contest" for the past 11 years. The contest weighs the spiders, with the heaviest spider being crowned the winner. That's it! The handler not only wins bragging rights, but also a one-of-a-kind trophy and a "fabulous prize". The contest is open to anyone in the state, all they have to do is bring in their spider to be weighed.

This year’s contest just ended, and a winner has been crowned.

The winning specimen, "Princess Raya", was a spider larger than any Cranshaw has seen in previous years, according to the official CSU news story. The cat-faced spider was named after the 9-year-old girl who found it, Raya Davis Thompson. Once she found the spider, Raya spent her summer days observing and feeding it, with the help of interested neighbors. The effort paid off and Princess Raya weighed in at a record 3.75 grams—about 25 percent larger than the previous record-holder, "Arach Obama". The specimen was also one of the entries submitted to come from the farthest distance away in the history of the contest.

Cranshaw was really impressed with Raya’s dedication, claiming that "she knocked it out of the park." Sadly, because the cat-faced spider only lives about a year, Princess Raya died a few days ago, after laying her egg sac.  

For Cranshaw, this year not only brought about the biggest of the species he has seen, but also may be the last time the contest is held. Started as an effort to raise awareness and reduce anxiety about the common breed of spider, the contest has been a very enjoyable endeavor and has gotten a lot of attention for the cat-faced arachnid.

However, after 37 years at CSU, Cranshaw plans to retire this summer and does not plan to keep the contest going.

In the CSU news story about the contest, Cranshaw summed it up :

“This is a high note, and I’m going to end it on this one. This will be the last time, and I like the way it ended.”

The video below, courtesy of CSU, gives us a look at Princess Raya:

(Editor's note: If you're not a fan of the creepy-crawlies, we highly suggest you do not watch the video. But, then again, you DID click on this article for a reason ...)

The cat-faced spider (Araneus gemmoides) is a pretty common species, per professor Cranshaw. It's the most common representative of the spider genus Araneus in the state and is a relative of the barn spider, which can be found in the Midwest. Often seen in homes and yards, the cat-faced spider can be scary for people due to its unusual appearance—a large round body with horn-like protrusions that resemble cat ears and a pattern on the abdomen that makes it look like, well, a cat face.

Fun fact: Charlotte, from Charlotte's Web, is a cat-faced spider! And the females, like Charlotte, will lay a large egg sac with about 100 eggs in it, according to insectidentification.org. Because of the sheer number of eggs, the females will grow quite large during this process.

The spider, though it looks intimidating, is harmless to humans and helps to keep homes and yards free of other pests.

What do you think of the cat-faced spider contest held by the CSU professor? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below.