Before You Stomp on That Spider…The Useful Arachnid

“Arachnids.” Many people have never heard this word before. Why do some people wince when they hear this word? Whatever arachnids are, why do they have such a bad rap? We hope you aren’t scared off yet!
Over the years, we have learned incredible information about this fascinating group of invertebrates: the arachnids. Arachnids are a group of arthropods— which means that they have a hard outer covering called an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed legs. The most famous within this group are spiders, scorpions, ticks, and mites. The lesser-known of the group are whip scorpions, camel spiders, and daddy longlegs (harvestmen). 
Now, why should we avoid squashing these little creatures when we see them? It is because our world would not be what it is today without arachnids, and there is plenty we can learn from them. Within the last few years, spiders and scorpions have been making headlines in the medical field. New research has found that you can use scorpion venom properties to detect tumor cells. When combined with a fluorescent tag, the venom’s substance causes tumors to light up and stand out from surrounding tissue during surgery. Another exciting advancement is the use of spider venom to form a new non-addictive painkiller medication. With even more research, imagine what else we can learn from these amazing creatures.
Arachnids are also predators, and their diet consists primarily of insects. Insects can become nuisances and pests, especially in the agricultural industry. Certain insects can wipe away entire crops and cripple people’s farms and livelihoods. Arachnids, particularly spiders, have been used throughout history as pest controls all over the globe. 
This type of pest control is much more effective and not as dangerous to the environment as pesticides. Without spiders, populations of certain insects could grow uncontrollably. Thankfully, they serve as crucial caretakers of the delicate balance within our ecosystem and food industry.

To learn more about these fascinating creatures, River Legacy Nature Center is  hosting a new traveling exhibit, The Art and Science of Arachnids, from now until February 27.

This exhibit houses 100 live arachnids and shows us their importance through interactive activities for the whole family. A few stars of this exhibit are the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula, which is a gigantic spider in the world by mass. And shockingly, despite its name, it does not eat birds. The curly-haired tarantula has brittle-like hairs that curl at the end, giving it the appearance of having curly hair. These types of tarantulas are many multicolored spiders, such as the Purple Earth Tarantula who displays beautiful purple and yellow hues.
It is safe to say that this ancient and fascinating group of invertebrates is one of the most important animals throughout human history. By understanding them, we can learn and appreciate how significant an impact they have on science, art, and culture. For more information about the exhibit, visit www.riverlegacy.org.
The Art and Science of Arachnids exhibit is organized and produced by Build 4 Impact, Inc. All rights reserved.

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