- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Of course, you have!
You love spiders! Yes? No? Well, maybe you just...umm...like them?
Or, maybe spiders fascinate you and you want to know more about them?
You're in luck.
Members of the American Arachnological Society are gathering on the UC Davis campus next week and they'll kick off their June 26-30 scientific meeting with a family friendly open house at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
The open house, themed, "Eight-Legged Encounters," will take place from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 25 in hallways of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. The lecture series is from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, in the newly constructed 600-seat lecture hall, California Hall. Both events are free and open to the public.
Why should folks attend?
"As a relative newcomer to arachnology, I would say the diversity of arachnids from scorpions to ticks to camel spiders is a good reason to attend," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. "There are a lot of false myths and misundertandings about these creatures. As they say 'knowledge is power' and so everyone who attends the Saturday event and/or the Tuesday evening talks could come away mighty powerful. Also, you don't have to love them to be curious about them. Knowledge can also conquer fears."
Professor Bond offers 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.
Lots of Exhibits and Activities. Some 20 exhibits and activities--educational and entertaining--will be set up in the hallway of the Academic Surge Building. “There will be everything--spider specimens, live arachnids, activities, artwork, etc., at the open house," Bond said.
A powerhouse of arachnologists will participate, Bond said. Professor Eileen Hebets of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is co-hosting the open house as part of a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, “Eight-Legged Encounters” that she developed as an outreach project to connect arachnologists with communities, especially youth. She seeks to educate the public “about the wonders of biology and the possibility of scientific discovery using a charismatic and engaging group of animals--arachnids. Arachnids (spiders and their relatives) are ubiquitous, thriving in most habitable environments on our planet (including underwater),” as mentioned on her website, https://hebetslab.unl.edu/
“They are tremendously diverse in their form, behavior, sensory systems, and general natural histories; making arachnid ecology and evolution fertile ground for teaching a breadth of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) knowledge content," Hebets says on her website. "The diversity of arachnid biology allows us to fluidly integrate concepts and knowledge from fields as disparate as anatomy, physiology, development, animal behavior, predator ecology, biomechanics, biomime
Youths Innately Curious. As a scientist, a mother and an education, Hebets says she often sees "the disconnect between youth and the world around them; between problem solving skills, observation skills, critical thinking, natural curiosity and the more traditional formal teaching programs experienced by many students. Youth are innately curious and tremendously creative and my aim is to leverage these traits for their own educational advancements in a fun and engaging manner.” To date, Hebets and her collaborators have developed more than 25 modular activity stations “encompassing arts and crafts, experiments, games, and other hands-on activities." They include classification and taxonomy, spiders and silk, path of predators, and hands-on science.
Name That Spider. Another activity at the open house should be a big draw. Plans call for “A Name that Spider" event, coordinated by postdoctoral fellow Lisa Chamberland and doctoral students Iris Bright and Emma Jochim of the Bond lab. “We'll have an exhibit at the event with details on the spider,” Bond said. “We'd like to restrict naming suggestions to be youths attending the event, students 18 years and younger."
The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, is the home of a worldwide collection of eight million insect specimens. It also houses a live "petting zoo" (Madgascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop.
It's time to get acquainted with spiders and other arachnids!