From Xplor for Kids
October 2014 Issue

Spook-Tacular Spiders

Publish Date

Oct 01, 2014

It’s creepy. It’s crawly. It lives in the shadows and spins webs in impossible places. Then it waits… Suddenly, a bee crashes into the spider’s sticky strands. The bee struggles and tries to escape. From the darkness, our spider reappears. The drama crescendos. Ready, aim, bite. In less time than it takes our spider to wrap up its midnight snack, you’ll see how spiders are more than just creepy and crawly — they’re spook-tacular!

Garden Spider

These large, harmless spiders spin orb-shaped webs with a zigzag up the center, called a stabilimentum. This might lure in insects, keep birds away, or strengthen the web. Most garden spiders build new webs each night. They eat the old web at dusk and start all over. In spring, look for spiderlings “ballooning” by on strands of silk that catch the breeze. Below, a garden spider wraps a bee in silk after using its fangs to inject fast-acting venom to paralyze it.

Fishing Spider

Fishing spiders are easy to spot near lakes and ponds. They hunt on land, water, and deep below. Their eight eyes and an array of vibrationdetecting organs and sensitive hairs make sure nothing slips by. Fishing spiders often rest their front legs on the water’s surface so that vibrations alert them to possible prey nearby. They walk on water and can sail by raising a few of their legs into a gentle breeze. By trapping air bubbles on their legs, fishing spiders can breathe underwater for up to half an hour.

Marbled Orb Weaver

Marbled orb weavers are common in Missouri and are one of the prettiest spiders to observe. They are generally bright yellow but also can be pale yellow, orange, beige, or white. Female marbled orb weavers build wheel-shaped webs among trees and tall weeds in moist woods and near streams. Marbled orb weavers perform a great service to us by consuming many insects that we often find a nuisance, especially moths and flies.

Tarantula

These hairy brutes are Missouri’s largest spiders. Despite their terrible reputation (thanks Hollywood), tarantulas are actually shy by nature and try to avoid humans. Found in southern Missouri, tarantulas live in old rodent dens and other cavities instead of spinning webs. At night, they pursue crickets and grasshoppers, and also feed on young mice, amphibians, and baby birds. Like other spiders, they have fangs that deliver venom that subdues and helps digest their prey.

Jumping Spider

Jumping spiders, though perfectly harmless, can be intimidating with their habit of jumping — sometimes even at you! Generally this is all in the name of escape. Jumping spiders don’t stay put on a web like most spiders. Instead, jumping spiders stalk their prey. They use silk as an anchor, attaching a strand before leaping on their next meal, so they can climb back to their original spot if they miss. Considering all the insects they consume, jumping spiders are quite beneficial to humans.

Wolf Spider

Wolf spiders are big enough to give you the heebie jeebies, growing as large as 3 inches across. Fortunately, they’re harmless and hugely beneficial. Wolf spiders work hard to rid us of unwanted insects like grasshoppers, moths, and flies. They can be found hunting at night in your backyard or local park, and even in your basement or garage. When the babies hatch, they ride around on mom’s back until they’re ready to be on their own.

Crab Spider Crab spiders are master hunters. Instead of building webs, they rely on stalking skills to ambush flies, butterflies, and other tasty morsels. Some crab spiders even change colors to match the flowers they are hunting from. These spiders are easy to identify because their extended front legs give them a crab-like appearance. Crab spiders are easy to find, they come in many different colors, and they are fun to watch.

BEWARE

Brown Recluse

Few spiders pose a threat to you, but a brown recluse or black widow bite is serious. Recluses are found in many homes, but they’re shy and rarely seen. They only bite when trapped against your skin. For ID, look for the fiddle shape on their back.

Black Widow

Look for the red hourglass on a black widow’s abdomen. If you see one in nature, consider yourself lucky and study it. They are not aggressive — their first instinct is to flee. If a black widow or brown recluse bites you, see a doctor.

Also in this issue

You Discover

With birds flying south, leaves changing color, and hunting seasons gearing up, there’s plenty to discover in October and November. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Predator vs. Prey: Loggerhead Shrike vs. Northern Fence Lizard

The struggle to survive isn't always a fair fight. Here's what separates nature's winners from its losers.

How To: Shoot Straight

To be a good hunter, you must be a straight shooter. Once your rifle has been sighted in, follow these tips to get better at hitting the bull’s-eye.

Skulls

Make no bones about it, you can learn a skeleton about an animal by examining its skull.

Wild Jobs: Sturgeon Surgeon Travis Moore

Sturgeon Surgeon Travis Moore equips slippery patients with high-tech tracking devices.

Strange But True

Your guide to all the unusual, unique, and unbelievable stuff that goes on in nature.

This Issue's Staff:

Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White

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