Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spider facts prove arachnids are cool, not creepy

Okay, so there's a reason spiders, bats, and other nocturnal creatures are associated with Halloween: the whole blood sucking concept is scary.

However, the amazing abilities of spiders and the many services they provide far outweigh any creepy factor. Today's article will be the first in a series that focuses on the cool-not-creepy facts about Halloween's various animal associates.

So, without further ado, a few notes on awesome arachnids:

  • One spider can eat 2,000 insects each year! Source That’s a lot of mosquitos not biting you, thanks to our eight legged friends.
  • Not all spiders make webs - about half of known species stalk and hunt their prey. Many of the web or "orb"weavers, however, create such distinctive patterns in their webs that their species can be determined from the web design alone.
  • The large and lovely orb webs found in backyard gardenswere likely created by a female spider.(Talk about a web design expert!) The male orb weavers are smaller and not often seen. Source
  • There are more than 40,000 different species of spiders, and 3,500 species of spiders living in North America alone. Source
  • The largest spider in the world is the South American Goliath Birdeater spider (Theraphosa leblondi), which has a legspan of up to 10 inches and weighs more than a quarter pound hamburger! Source
  • Scientists estimate than in a field habitat, there are over 400,000 spiders living in every acre. Soucre
  • Spiders’ silk is tremendously strong; it can rival the tensile strength of steel and has been suggested for use in bulletproof vests. Source
  • If a young spider loses a leg, it can grow a whole new one! Source Testing this theory is not recommended, of course, as "playing" with a spider will send the normally shy, retreating creatures into fight or flight mode. And when flight isn't an option, bite is! (Then again, what creature wouldn't try to bite you if you cornered it and threatened to remove a limb?)
  • Another way spiders avoid being legless or being lunch is by playing dead! They'll drop to the ground and curl their legs up, but if you're patient, they'll eventually uncurl and scamper away. Source
  • Spiders don’t actually suck the blood of their prey. They actually use digestive juices to dissolve most of the edible parts of their insect meal, doing the little bit of needed chewing with their chelicerae (“jaws”). Source If the dining spider doesn't have jaws strong enough to chew that particular meal, it will inject the digestive juices into the insect and then suck the dissolved innards out like soup.

Okay, so that last one was a little graphic, but no one wants to take all the

frightening fun out of Halloween!

Enjoy the excellent spider links and resources below, and stay tuned: the next creepy critter up for demystification is that un-frightening furry flyer, the bat!

Spider Education Links

Environmental Education for Kids!

Spider Activities

Kinder Korner Along Came A Spider


Myths, Misconceptions, and Superstitions About Spiders

Spinning Tales of Spiders - An Arachnid Book List

Eight Legs by D.M. Souza

How Spiders Make Their Webs by Jill Bailey

Spiders and Scorpions by Dr. Paul Hillyard

The Lives of Spiders by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Spiders and Their Kin by H.W. Levi. A Golden Guide

Spiders by Watts, Barrie.

Trapdoor spiders by Gerholdt, James E.

Spiders, insects, and minibeasts by Clarke, Penny

The private life of spiders by Hillyard, P. D.

Wolf spiders by Gerholdt, James E.

Jumping spiders by Gerholdt, James E.

Tarantula spiders by Gerholdt, James E.

Bird-eating spiders by Gerholdt, James E.

Black widow spiders by Gerholdt, James E.

Spider’s lunch: all about garden spiders by Cole, Joanna Payne

Simon & Schuster Children’s Guide to Insects and Spiders

Spinning spiders by Berger, Melvin

Amazing spiders by Schnieper, Claudia

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