The Day I stopped vacuuming spider webs
I love nature and I like animals, but spiders, to be polite, were never my cup of tea. So if you are like me or even just kind of like me, there’s a high likelihood that this article will reveal to you a magical world. Spider wisdom right under our noses.
If there is anyone least suited to write here on spiders it is I. As it turns out, though, one can change at any age. If in the past the mere utterance of the word spider would send shivers down my spine, today I enthusiastically invite you to put aside preconceptions and stigmas for a few minutes of reading about a wisely mysterious world.
One of Assaf's earliest childhood memories is from kibbutz Yad Mordechai where she grew up. "In those days the (Kindergarten) Gan's yard was not fenced in so when we would go out to play there as a group, I would continue walking towards the pine forest behind the yard. I had my own special spot. I remember clearly the pine scent and the sunlight peering through the needles. I would sit on the ground and look around quietly, just nature and me." In ninth grade she collected spiders for a Biology project and in twelfth grade she was sent to meet with Professor Gershom Levi r.i.p, a spider's scholar and scientist at Hebrew University. Every two weeks she would drive up to the capital with a cardboard box chuck full of country spiders. In fact, today, some of the collection spiders at the Givat Ram Collection are Yad Mordechai species.
After teaching in a Field School as her army service, she started studying at Hebrew University and later on at the Technion. Years later, with a master's degree in the field of cancer research and a doctorate in developmental genetics Assaf decided to leave everything and return to her childhood love, nature and spiders specifically. Her post doc was already written while at the spiders' lab of professor Yael Lubin at Ben Gurion University. Today she lives in Kibbutz Maagan Michael and teaches in Seminar Hakibutzim and oversees Forest Education in the Education department in Ramat Hanadiv.
How do folks respond when you tell them what you do? After all, Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias among humans. The Theory of Biophilia by Wilson , responds Assaf, teaches that children are born with a love for nature therefore it seems fear of animals is a gained fear, most commonly due to lack of knowledge. Assaf teaches about her encounters with students and their parents as well as educators. During some of these encounters, as soon as the animals would be exposed the mothers would clutch their children close to them. That speaks for itself. For a moment I felt awkward because I immediately saw myself among these mothers and realized how many anxieties we pass on to our children. So in the following lines we collated some interesting facts about this fabulous animal which may help change the way you think of and treat them next time you encounter one on your doorstep!
Silk's traits are rare. First, silk contains antibacterial materials and therefore it does not decompose. Furthermore silk cobs are very strong and agile despite being extra light. If a spider would knit a cob web around the world the length of 40,000 km, its weight would only be several dozen grams. It’s a brilliant patent, which is why folks have been trying to imitate it since long ago. Two major uses for this brilliant material and human's fascination with replicating cobwebs. First, the use of the antibacterial threads in major surgeries. The second is an attempt to create a thread so strong, it's appropriate for carrying heavy loads on airplanes. The trend and science of mimicking naturalistic characteristics and phenomenon for human use is called Biomimicry.
And to the few brave ones who have read to this point here are a few extra factoids about spiders:
- There are at least 40000 species of spiders in the world. In Israel at least several thousands
- In Ramat Hanadiv at least 110 genera, 82 kinds, 29 families
- A spider has two body sections, 4 pairs of walking legs, 2-8 eyes (it still does not see well)
- All spiders are predators
- Most spiders are poisonous
- All spiders make silk cobs, not all knit webs
- There is wet and dry silk. Silk is produced through the special nipples on the spiders stomach.
- Webs function to capture prey. There are several kinds of webs: Orb, hammock, funnel, dome, tent and thicket.
Spider webs are highly elastic; they are one fifth the weight of steel. Scientists calculated that a large enough one cm.thick web could stop a plane in its tracks.
- Spiders who don't create webs, catch their prey by ambushing and/or running after its prey.