This weekend was, to my knowledge, the first ever spider day hosted by Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. Along with a fantastic crew of volunteer spider enthusiasts and park staff, I had the great pleasure of sharing some of the incredible biology of spiders and the joys of being a naturalist with kids and adults alike.
Gwylim Blackburn greeted visitors at the become a naturalist station. Here kids could make or borrow all the supplies they might need to be arachnologists for the day! These included ‘pooters’ (aspirators) made out of straws for collecting small spiders, personalized field notebooks, pencils, magnifying glasses, collecting containers, and a customized field guide to the spiders of Iona Beach.
Tanya Stemberger served up cricket smoothies and crunchy beetle larvae at the eat like a spider station. Here visitors learned about the health and environmental benefits of eating insects like spiders do! Read more about this part of the event here.
Some were a bit sceptical about the idea of eating insects at first.
But most were enthusiastic!
In the end, almost everyone accepted the challenge and won a special entomophagy achievement award for their bravery!
Next, kids got to participate in the spider olympics! The first event was to avoid predation by a spider. The challenge was to to climb through a web without creating vibrations that would ring the dinner bells and alert the resident spider to the presence of potential prey!
Other spider olympic events included trying to jump as far as a jumping spider (they can jump distances up to 25 times their body length!) and run as fast as a house spider (330 body lengths in 10 seconds!).
The highlight of the day for most visitors was the spider tour of the beach with Sean McCann, where kids got to learn how to find spiders and put their new field notebooks and pooters to use!
Sean took his crew of naturalists to several habitats in search of spiders, starting with his favourite: under the driftwood.
The tour then moved on to using beating sheets to collect spiders from vegetation, and also included sampling the rich spider fauna on the walls of the washroom building.
Samantha Vibert and I introduced interested arachnophiles (and a lot of unsuspecting cyclists stopping for water/washroom breaks!) to basic spider anatomy and diversity. We had live specimens of several local species representing both wandering hunters and web-builders.
All in all, I think the day was a great success! We had over 120 visitors, and a ton of fun. I hope it happens again next year!
Here’s a small sample of the diverse spiders that we found on the day, or brought from nearby sites (photos by Sean McCann).