Fridays usually mean you're counting down the hours to pizza and a Walking Dead marathon, right? Not if you're PhD student Catherine Scott, who spent her past Friday afternoon observing a spider mating marathon – and live-tweeting the whole process. 

Scott is studying courtship behaviour and sexual communication in black widow spiders at the University of Toronto, and last Friday saw her holed up in a campus lab that houses a breeding colony of these infamous arachnids. Once she'd set up special "mating arenas" for a few of her eight-legged subjects (three males and three females), all that remained to do was sit back and wait for the action – and maybe tweet about it.  

Scott's blow-by-blow account of the spiders' elaborate courtship rituals quickly drummed up interest from curious arachnid fans. "Since I was waiting around hoping to catch the spiders in the act, I thought I would tweet a bit," Scott tells CBC News. "I guess the weird and wonderful behaviour of black widows that originally got me hooked was also intriguing to folks following along."

For those unfamiliar with how spider sex plays out, what followed during the course of the afternoon was a fascinating lesson in 140-letter increments – and also solid proof that sometimes spiders like to take their sweet time.

Despite what seemed to be a perfectly romantic setting, Scott's male black widow spiders started off in a pretty reluctant mood, apparently more interested in self-grooming than getting it on. And that made for a lot of false starts.

 But amid all the highs and lows, there was still plenty of excitement:


 And a few rookie errors:

As well as everything you ever wanted to know about black widow reproductive anatomy, sperm transfer tactics, cannibalistic habits (or lack thereof) and other fun spider facts – and then some.  

As for entertaining contributions to Scott's live commentary, Twitter users didn't let us down (and we'd expect nothing less). 

Disappointingly, the mating marathon was a bit of an, er, anti-climax. Aside from the unfortunate death of one of the male spiders (no, he wasn't eaten by a would-be mate), not a single victorious matting attempt took place – but here's hoping the next session is more successful. 

Spider non-performance aside, it was still a Friday well spent as far as Scott is concerned.


Top header image: Marc Matteo, Flickr