Hello CSF fans, followers, and supporters!
As the festival approaches, I was thinking about some of the awesome events we have going on just around the corner! Since this week’s theme is Earth and Nature, I was thinking about the Spider Superheroes event - an awesome, totally free event for Grades 1 to 4 at Harvard’s Museum of Natural History - all about spiders and the amazing things they can do.
Spiders are a special type of animal called an Arachnid that has eight jointed legs and lives mostly on land. They have inhabited Earth, as far as we know, for about 130 million years -- hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs. They are carnivores, and detect their prey with the small hairs on their legs and body. Their sense of touch is exquisite, and probably the inspiration for Spiderman’s “Spidey Sense”.
Most spiders catch their prey by spinning webs from sticky silk they secrete in glands called spinnerets, on the back of their abdomen. Those that don’t spin webs either hunt for their prey, or wait for prey to pass by them while they are hiding.
Every spider has fangs, and almost every spider has venom for killing prey. Though many people fear spider bites, most spiders’ venom is relatively weak, and their fangs cannot puncture human skin. Spiders are only responsible for about 15% of bites that they are blamed for - the other incidents being caused by stinging or biting insects, like wasps, ticks, yellow jackets, and chiggers.
Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is the most common phobia in the world, far outranking rational fears like being kidnapped, hit by a car, or large predators like bears, tigers, and wolves. Some scientists think humans are programmed to be afraid of spiders so we will avoid the venomous species, similar to how many people are afraid of snakes.
Of course, it is sensible to be cautious when regarding any potentially venomous animal, but spiders do far more good for people than harm. Spiders are crucial for keeping insect (especially pest insects like flies, moths, and millipedes) populations in check, as well as being a staple food source for birds, reptiles, and amphibians. And, chances are, spiders are a lot more afraid of you than you are of them.
At Spider Superheroes, you can learn about some of the amazing things spiders can do: changing colors, jumping incredible heights, and knowing exactly how to spin a web without getting stuck in it. You will even design your own spider superhero with unique superpowers! For more information, visit here: http://hmnh.harvard.edu/event/spider-superheroes-0
Spiders keep our world safe from pests as we sleep - the silent and unrecognized heroes of our homes. There is so much to learn about these ancient creatures, and so many reasons to admire their amazing talents.
Bonus! Here’s some extraordinary spiders on my superlatives list, followed by a list of some common spiders you might see in your home:
Largest Spider by mass: T. blondi (Goliath Bird Eating Spider)
P. digua (No official English name, sometimes referred to as a Patu Spider)
Most Venomous Spider
P. cf nigriventer (Brazilian Wandering Spider)
Largest Family of Spiders
Salticidae (Jumping Spiders)
A. Anops (Kaua’i Cave Wolf Spider)
Spiders common in Eastern Massachusetts:
P. Tepidariorum (Common House Spider)
P. Phalangioides (Daddy Long-legs)
P. Undatus (Tan Jumping Spider)
A. Diadematus (Garden Spider)
About the Author: Anna Bishop is a sophomore at Sturgis Charter Public School and critter enthusiast. She is part of the Teen Advisory Board for the CSF, and her interests include zoology, zoo-psychology, ethology, raising insects, linguistics, and trying new recipes.