Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The amazing spider, man

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications, with Sue Andersen, Zookeeper


It seems like every time we do a spider story, someone gets mad at us for having to see these creatures on their screen. But we’re going to help you learn to love spiders, starting with these baby golden orb weavers seen here at just one hour old!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Spiders are good people. We talked with zookeeper, Sue Andersen, to get the scoop on these amazing critters on the occasion of the third egg case hatching in Bug World in the past two weeks.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Seen here are golden orb weaver spiderlings, fresh out of their egg case. According to Sue, “spiders actually develop from eggs into what is termed post-embryos (affectionately called ‘eggs with legs’ by arachnologists!) within the safety of their egg case. By the time they emerge from their egg case, they are first instar (or stage) as these guys and gals are. At this stage they are looking more like baby spiders. Some species of both true spiders (such as these Nephila inaurata madagascariensis) and primitive spiders (such as tarantulas) molt into second instar before emerging, depending on their species.”

An egg case contains 50-100 spiderlings. Sue tells us, “these spiderlings will continue to clump together until they molt again, then they will disperse, having the ability to each make a perfect orb web of its own.”

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The silk of this species is so strong that it is sometimes used as fishing line by people living in the spider’s native Africa.  Members of the genus Nephila are found on several continents, including the beautiful Nephila clavipes found in our southern states.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Like all spiders, the golden orb weaver is a great natural pest control of flies, mosquitos, and agricultural pests. In Bug World, Sue provides care for the spiderlings, feeding them first fruit flies, then houseflies, and eventually crickets. She gives them a fine misting of clean water each day to drink from, which they let drip down their little legs before bringing it up to their mouths.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The golden orb weaver is probably the most memorable display in the Bug World exhibit—it’s the spider that hangs out on its web with no glass between the animal and the visitor. Some of the female spiderlings may go on display as adults, while others will remain behind the scenes in the Bug World lab as part of the breeding colony. Sue’s true love of spiders breaks through as she tells us that still others will move to other accredited conservation zoos to “establish and safeguard their own precious colonies of this amazing, beautiful, and charismatic arachnid.”

3 comments:

  1. Fantastic! Great to hear the voice of keepers who are passionate about their subject! My daughter has a spider book and magnifying glass in her backpack to check out whatever she comes across. I figure it's just more to love in this world. Keep up the stories!

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    1. "I figure it's just more to love in this world" -- how beautifully said!
      - Rebecca

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  2. Thank you for this special spider update. I have never understood why spiders are so loathed (with the exception of Black Widows). I look forward to the orb weavers every summer and throughout the fall; they certainly help us maintain a healthy and organic yard and garden. They are special creatures and we go out of our way to keep their webs intact.

    Thanks again!

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