I love nature, but admittedly my first impulse is to squish spiders whenever I find them in my apartment. There’s something about those 8 wiggly legs that is very unnerving. Who cares if the spider is only as small as a piece of dirt? Well, today, I let the spider live. Perhaps it was because I started to think about all the amazing characteristics of arachnids like that spider. Or, perhaps it was because when I came back with my dust pan to sweep up that particular pile of dirt the spider had already crawled away to safety.
THe Amazing SPider
Why are spiders so amazing? For starters, if you live on the Zuckerman family farm and have a friendly pig named Wilbur, you may also have a literate spider who spins words in her web. Not many of us have such privilege. However, did you know that many spiders do spin secret signals into their webs?
Spiders are able to secrete thin silk threads made of proteins out of glands in their abdomens. Spiders often have several different glands that each secretes a different type of thread. When building a web, spiders will first secrete a dry thread with which they will spin and form the framework of their web. After the framework is complete, they then secrete and spin with a sticky thread that will be placed over the framework. This sticky thread will later serve to trap unsuspecting insects. Finally, some spiders have the ability to secrete a special ultraviolet thread that they use to “decorate” their web. We cannot see ultraviolet light but many insects can. The sticky frame of a web is a material that does not reflect ultraviolet light very well. It is essentially invisible unless it is closely inspected. When spiders spin with the ultraviolet thread, they create a design in the web that insects can see. Not only do insects see the thread, but they are tricked into thinking that it is some tasty treat, like a flower, so they come to inspect it immediately….only to SPLAT…become stuck! Now, the spiders have their own tasty treat for later.
With Your Children
- Ask them what they would do if they saw a spider?
- Explain the benefit of spiders to your children. Help them understand the good things that spiders do.
- Talk about a spider’s unique characteristics (eight legs, two body segments, members of the arachnid family, etc.).
- Next time your child sees a spider, encourage them to be curious! Have them watch and observe the spider’s behavior instead of squishing it.
- Go on a nature walk and look for spider webs! If you go early in the morning, you may find them more easily. Look, for dew drops on the webs.