Discover spiders spinning their webs in the open-air
Spider Pavilion, open through Sunday, November 3,
from 10 am to 5 pm. Visit
NHM.ORG/spiders
.
Written by Jessica Portner
About 300 sizable visitors, from L.A. and around
the world, are building a new home in the Spider
Pavilion, open through November 3. In their rush
to get webside into the main Pavilion space, people
tend to miss the “arachnid gallery,” a sort of anteroom
to the main event. Here, giant tarantulas and spiders
are living large in tricked-out terrariums.
Visitors can peer into the glass habitats at
a Goliath Bird-Eating tarantula,
Theraphosa blondi,
which hails from the South American rainforest
and can grow to the size of a dinner plate. Besides
anatomical girth, there is big charisma on display.
It’s easy to spot the Jumping Spiders and Wolf
Spiders who have extra-large eyes, and enhanced
vision that helps them hunt prey. The biggest crowd-
pleaser, though, might be the stylish Blue Cobalt
tarantula, a newcomer this year. When visitors step
inside the open-air Pavilion, which will feature about
seven species of local and exotic spiders, they will
see full-size big web spinners at work engineering
their lair. The large Golden Orb Weaver,
Nephila
clavipes
, has a web of yellow threads that can reach
six feet wide, and its silk is as strong as steel.
Spider Finders
To find many of these spiders, Lila Higgins and
Cat Urban, two of our Live Animal Program
staff, traveled to the Louisiana bayou to handpick
them. “We collect the spiders at night because it’s
really easy to find their webs with your headlamp,”
Higgins said. “It’s amazing, but you have to watch
out for fire ants and the occasional alligator too!”
When the spiders arrive at the Museum,
the Live Animal Program staff treats their honored
guests well. Spiders are fed delicacies like crickets
and flies, and are misted every day to keep them
hydrated. The webs, particularly the large ones,
are monitored to make sure there’s enough space
between branches of the trees and bushes.
Higgins hopes that when visitors step into
the Pavilion, they will come to better understand
these often-misunderstood animals. “Spiders
eat, mate, and find shelter to survive, just like us
humans do,” she said. “By getting to see these
creatures up close, I hope people will approach
them with a sense of wonder instead of fear.
Even if some of them are on the large side!”
Spider
Pavilion’s
BigYear
Naturalist
October/November 2013 
7
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,...20