Leggy! Live Spiders and their Relatives
Members of the University of Alaska Museum of the North staff are getting ready for the spider exhibit opening in January 2012 featuring live insects, as well as movies about their behaviour and habitat.
UAF graduate student Brandi Fleshman is a spider expert. She easily reels off the genus and species of the arachnids found in the space of 90 minutes in the woods around the museum, although she says she'll have to verify some of them.
She knows interesting tidbits about spider habits and behaviours. She points out the hunting prowess of certain sheet web spinners that wait patiently on the edge of their traps until an unsuspecting insect comes along. Other spiders are more bold, stalking their prey through leaf litter.
Arachnids are among the most misunderstood and maligned creatures. Although spiders are amazing predators -- several of the species collected on this June day were already eating the other insects in the tube before they could be removed -- they don't like to bite people. "They don't like blood," said entomology curator Derek Sikes.
"Spider bites get misdiagnosed by an order of magnitude. There are no known brown recluses in the state of California, but over a thousand bites are reported there each year even though they never find the spider."