Conservation Creation: Sensational Spiders

Halloween is right around the corner – which means we’re beginning to see lots of spooky decorations around town! These decorations often include an animal that strikes fear in the heart of many: the spider.

Spiders are commonly listed as one of the things people fear most in the United States. However, these animals play an important role in our ecosystems and do more for us than people may realize. But, before we get to that, what exactly is a spider?

Spiders are arachnids, meaning that they have 2 body segments and 8 legs. In the United States alone, we have more than 3,000 spider species present – which is only a fraction of the over 40,000 species found worldwide. Even with all of these different spider species present, very few are actually dangerous to humans. In North Carolina, the black widow and brown recluse are the only spiders with a venom that is able to harm a human. However, these spiders are small and prefer cool, damp places, so meeting one of them is unlikely.

Spiders and other arachnids have a diet that consists almost entirely of insects. In fact, spiders consume an estimated 400 million tons (or 800 billion pounds) of insects every year!

In addition to spiders eliminating unwanted insect pests from our daily lives, they have also contributed to science and technology in other fascinating ways. For example, did you know that spiders’ webs inspired the creation of mosquito nets? Before mosquito nets, many people would actually bring web weaving spiders (called orb weavers) into their children’s rooms to catch mosquitos and prevent malaria.

Speaking of spider webs, spider silk is the strongest known material in the world. A strand of spider silk is up to 5 times as strong as a string of steel the same size! For this reason, spider silk is often used in research to develop materials like Kevlar and other synthetic materials.

To learn more about these amazing arachnids and help create a community web, remember to join our educators in Jeansboro Junction at the Greensboro Science Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30am and 2:30pm throughout the month of October.

 

Now that you have a new found love of spiders…

We’re sure you would like more of them around your home! We’re here to help you with that, with a DIY spider activity that will be perfect for your Halloween decorations!

What you will need:

  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • straws (or pipe cleaners)
  • scissors
  • paint
  • googly eyes
  • a paint brush

Step 1: Cut a toilet paper tube in half and glue it to the center of a whole toilet paper tube. Allow for the glue to dry.

Step 1

Step 2: Cut 4 straws in half so that you have 8. Using a little glue on the inside of the full toilet paper tube, adhere these to create the legs of your spider. (If you are comfortable, hot glue will speed up this process)

Step 2 Part 1Step 2 Part 2

Step 3: Paint your spider. For an added challenge, take pictures of spiders you find in your yard or other natural areas and try to paint your spiders to look like them!

Step 3

Step 4: Attach googly eyes (or paint eyes) on your spider. Spiders can have anywhere from 2-8 eyes so add any number that you like!

Step 4

Step 5: Allow for all of the paint and glue to dry before decorating your home with these upcycled arachnids. Happy Halloween!

Fall Leaf Chromatography

Materials - Fresh Green Leaves

Materials: Fresh Green Leaves

Materials:
Variety of freshly plucked leaves
Clear plastic cups, jars or glasses
Rubbing alcohol
Plastic wrap
Pencil
String
Coffee filters

Procedure: Place Torn Leaves in Individual Jars

Procedure: Place Torn Leaves in Jars

Procedure:
1. Collect some green leaves from multiple trees.
2. Tear up each leaf and place the pieces in a cup (one leaf per cup).
3. Add just enough rubbing alcohol to cover the leaf bits and cover with plastic wrap.
4. Allow the cup to sit for about 30 minutes.
5. Tie a piece of coffee filter to a pencil and place the pencil over the cup, allowing the coffee filter to dangle and just touch the top of the liquid.
6. Let the coffee filter sit for an hour or two.
7. Compare your results.

Procedure: Allow Experiment To Sit

Procedure: Allow Experiment To Sit


What Happened and Why?

As the liquid traveled up the coffee filter, you probably noticed a separation of colors. More than likely, you observed varying shades of green and maybe even some red, orange and yellow areas.

Results

Results

Leaves appear green because of a pigment called chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll can often cover up other pigments, though. When fall arrives and the leaves begin to change, chlorophyll breaks down, allowing you to see the red, yellow and orange pigments contained within the leaves. In the experiment above, you were able to see these hidden pigments on the coffee filter. Use these results to guess which trees will be most colorful in the fall!