Walking on Webs

It’s that time of year again when I get lots of photos, videos, and requests to identify ‘this spider’.   Usually the adjectives that are go along with the description include: huge, gross, creepy, and annoying.  I’d like to go ahead and say that I think better adjectives would be: amazing, industrious, elegant, and nimble.  Well, if you are simply looking for a name and don’t care about anything else you will be happy to know they are called, Hentz’s orb weaver, a spider in the family Araneidae.  If you want to learn a bit more why they are so amazing read on.

Hentz's Orb Weaver:  note the web details

Hentz’s Orb Weaver: note the web details

The scientfic name for the spider is Neoscona crucifera and is closely related to a few other species that are found throughout North America.  Although the family is distributed around the world.  This particular species is a late bloomer of sorts.  Depending on what latitude you live in, the males don’t reach adulthood until mid summer and females a couple of weeks later.  That’s the reason that they start to make showing (and I start to get questions) close to the end of summer.

Dorsal View with Prey

Dorsal View with Prey

Females build a conspicous web (up to 2 feet) in places that have the greatest chances of catching pray.  With houses that ends up being assocaited with outdoor lights that attract insects and for most people that means right by their front doors.  Hentz’s orbweaver is a nocturnal species and females can spin a web in about one hour or less.  Often webs can be found first thing in the morning without spiders and it isn’t until dark that they will emerge from a hidden retreat to wait for pray.  They will usually rebuild a new web every night and the coolest part about it…. they eat their old web first!

When an insect lands in the web the spiders will quickly judge if they should make their move or not.  The orbweaver will quickly run over, partially wrap the prey in silk before injecting the venom using their fangs.  The venom usually slows down the prey quickly, the spider will then continue to wrap the insect up and let it sit until it’s ready for a snack.

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Upgrading the Collections

Working in a natural history museum (or any museum), there are a number of truths that you learn early on.  Not all collections spaces are made equal and the collections will ALWAYS grow.  As stewards of these scientific objects and specimens, our goal is to improve the way in which we house our collections.  Not only are we always looking for new materials for archival containers but we also look at the big picture, the rooms in which they are kept.

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Carriage System for Upgraded Shelving

Currently, the Yale Peabody Museum is in the middle of an upgrade for our fluid collections that are in the Yale West Campus Collections Storage Center.  In this case we are moving in to a newly refurbished section of the building that has allowed us to put in rolled compact storage.  Instead of having stationary shelving units, the new fluid room has shelving on wheels, making it possible to get more collections in to a smaller space.

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Compactors with some shelving set-up

Here are a few in-process pictures of the installation of the new rolled storage system.  As awesome as this installation is, the amount of change before this, thanks to hard work of the contractors on the space is even more amazing.  Once the room is completed, I’ll post more pictures including the new work room and with some collections in place.  It’s exciting times!

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Contractors and Peabody staff testing the new system

(that’s our Director of Collections and Operations, Tim White on the floor)