Beautiful October – yellow leaves are flying in the wind, pumpkins are ripening, spiders are at their web-weaving best and we are getting ready for Halloween.
During the fall most spiders mate, lay eggs and die. Others prepare for winter, when they will be dormant. There are many species of spiders, but in general they can be divided into two groups based on the way they get food.
Hunting spiders don’t make webs; they either chase their prey until they catch it or lie in wait and pounce on passing bugs. They have excellent eyesight and are fast runners.
Trapping spiders make webs to catch insects and other small creatures. They don’t need to have good eyesight or speed, since their victims get caught in their sticky webs and can’t escape. Web styles include funnel webs, cob webs that look like a tangle of threads, sheet webs that look like a stretched-out trampoline of threads, and orb webs – this is the type of web most people think of when they imagine a spider web.
Spiders have two body parts and eight legs. They have chelicerae, or jaws, with sharp, hollow fangs at the tip. Once they have caught a bug or trapped it in a web, spiders inject their prey with poison and digestive juices that turn their victims’ insides to soup. The spider then sucks out the soup through their fangs, and toss the dried-up body out of the way like an old juice box. Talk about a scary Halloween story!
- Find a clean spray bottle and fill it with water.
- Search nearby bushes and grasses for signs of spiders. You will probably find funnel webs and sheet webs in the grass, and orb webs in the bushes.
- Webs are often hard to spot; you may notice one web strand shining in the sunlight, or see a big spider that looks like it’s floating in the air.
- Using the spray bottle, gently cover the web with mist – try not to upset the spider!
- When the web is wet it will catch the light and show up beautifully. What kinds of webs can you find?
At Halloween we think about stories of ghosts and monsters. But what do these things have to do with science? You might be surprised! There is a field of scientific study called Crypto Zoology. ‘Crypto’ means ‘hidden’, and ‘zoology’ means the ‘study of animals’. Put these together, and you get the study of unseen but well-known animals that people tell stories about. These stories become legends. Scientists use their observation skills and sensitive testing equipment to seek out the truth about the world’s legendary monsters.
Caddy: a sea monster said to live in Cadborough Bay (outside Victoria).
Ogopogo: the massive Loch Ness Monster of Okanagan Lake – it was given protected wildlife status by the BC government in 1989!
Cammy: another massive cryptid spotted in Vancouver Island’s Cameron Lake. The lake is astonishingly deep, and is known to be home to some HUGE fish.
The Sasquatch: a large, hairy ape-like creature said to be found throughout BC and Washington. Over the years hundreds of people have claimed that they have seen Sasquatches.
Have you ever seen a mythical creature, or know someone who has? Send us your stories, to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share them on the website!