- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Gotta love those spiders.
We recently saw an adorable jumping spider (aren't all jumping spiders adorable?) huddled or cuddled (your preference) within a layer of yellow rose petals. It didn't look like a poster child for Halloween. It looked right at home.
It's still there.
In a March 2019 Bug Squad blog, we posted five good reasons to like spiders, compliments of Professor Jason Bond of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a newly selected co-editor-in-chief of the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity (ISD), published by the Entomological Society of America (ESA).
“Spiders have been around for 400 million years and are cunning, skillful predators," Professor Bond says. They are "an incredibly diverse group with more than 50,000 species described with probably another 200,000 remaining to yet be discovered."
The five good reasons to like spiders?
- Spiders consume 400-800 million tons of prey, mostly insects, each year. Humans consume somewhere around 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.
- Spider silk is one of the strongest naturally occurring materials. Spider silk is stronger than steel, stronger and more stretchy than Kevlar; a pencil thick strand of spider silk could be used to stop a Boeing 747 in flight.
- Some spiders are incredibly fast – able to run up to 70 body lengths per second (10X faster than Usain Bolt).
- Although nearly all 47,000-plus spider species have venom used to kill their insect prey, very few actually have venom that is harmful to humans.
- Some spiders are really good parents –wolf spider moms carry their young on their backs until they are ready to strike out on their own; female trapdoor spiders keep their broods safe inside their burrows often longer than one year, and some female jumping spiders even nurse their spiderlings with a protein rich substance comparable to milk.
When Professor Bond spoke at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, “Eight-Legged Wonders,” on March 9, 2019, showcasing spiders, he drew scores of questions. Following his talk, the visitors participated in interactive activities, including “How to Eat Like a Spider,” “How to Assemble an Arachnid,” "How to Catch a Moth," "Create a Chelicerate" and others. So educational and entertaining and let's hope another one will be on the calendar in the near future! The Bohart Museum, currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is the home of nearly 8 million insect specimens, and also a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and an online insect-themed gift shop, stocked with t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, and collecting equipment.
Meanwhile, Herman or Hermanina, is basking in the sun, getting ready to substantiate Professor Bond's excellent description: "a cunning, skillful predator."