Potty Gardening Club: Spiders
Wherever you are, you are not far away from a spider. They share our buildings and our gardens and I have even seen them on and in my car whilst I have been travelling. Spiders have even been seen thread flying at the height of small aeroplanes! Thread flying is where a spider lets out a thread of silk to catch the wind and travel for miles by air. Now that’s clever!
We have all seen spiders in our homes – perhaps stuck in the bath or sink, sometimes running across the floor or quietly sitting in a ceiling corner. A few species share our homes, some permanently and others having come in through open windows or gaps beneath doors. But most spiders are not comfortable living in our centrally-heated homes and would prefer to be outside in our gardens, garages and sheds. Some spiders live in bushes and trees and some live on the ground and in the undergrowth.
Love them or hate them, spiders are very important and beneficial beasties that help to control insect pest numbers. Many people think spiders are insects but they are not. Insects have six legs, three main body segments and antennae. Spiders have eight legs, two body segments and no antennae. Spiders are arachnids, as are ticks, mites and scorpions. Spiders have four pairs of eyes on the head (cephalothorax) and the pattern of the eyes arrangement varies from one Family to another. The main pair of eyes are at the front top of the head – these form images and the others see shades of dark and light. Most spiders have eight eyes, but there are some that only have six. Some have less, but they always have an even number – there are no one-eyed cyclops spiders!
Can you see the spider’s eyes on the closeup picture below that I have taken using a special lens? This spider has eight eyes.
Spiders produce different silk fibres for different jobs, such as making webs and snares, egg cases and wrapping prey. Webs come in different patterns and shapes, from the complex beauty of the orb webs of garden spiders to the tangled webs of daddy-long-legs spiders and the large funnel shape webs of house spiders. Not all of Britain’s spiders spin webs to capture their prey. Some jump on their prey, some ambush and some spit out a glue to snare their prey. Spiders really are marvelous and interesting minibeasts and nothing to be afraid of.
Here are some pictures of spiders I found in my garden and in my home.
Why not have a go at making this spider web dream catcher [PDF Link] and hang it in your room. You can also colour in the spider picture to put on your wall:
Written by Rob Gagliano, Casual Learning Development Leader and Natural Science Collections Volunteer