Staff Shenanigans: Spider Style

Staff Shenanigans: Spider Style

By: Jenny Koska, SCI Programs Coordinator

Squishy is the name of my pet wolf spider. 

My coworkers found her roaming around SCI about two months ago. How do I know she is a girl? Well, she has short hairy legs opposed to long lanky legs. Oh, and she laid an egg sac! (But more on that later.)

When we first found her, our entire office was obsessed (see photo). We used a digital microscope and looked at her (photo). Then we decided to keep her. I made her a home, complete with a rock and a stick (photo). 

Every day, I give her fresh water. Once a week, I give her a mealworm to eat (photo). Don’t worry, I’m not a terrible mother - that’s how often she eats, because she is poikilothermic (cold-blooded).

About three weeks ago, Squishy started acting very funny...

She started burrowing in the soil and hiding under the sticks in her aquarium. When I would try to find her, she would get aggressive. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until a week later when I saw her with this (photo). THAT’S RIGHT - Squishy is going to be a MOMMA! I was ecstatic; The rest of my office (for the most part) was less-than-thrilled. 

The egg sac is attached to her abdomen. Wolf spiders are nomads and don’t have make a web. They travel around and look for food. They attach the egg sac to their abdomen so that they can take it everywhere with them. 

One day, something terrible happened: Squishy lost her egg sac. It got caught behind a stick and came off her abdomen. The next five minutes were some of most stressful and traumatic moments I have ever seen. Squishy was searching all over the aquarium for her egg sac. I was trying to help her find it, but she was not appreciating my help. She kept attacking the pipet I stuck in the aquarium. Finally, I was able to guide her back to the location where her egg sac fell off. She scooped up her babies and bear hugged them (photo). It was possibly the cutest thing ever. Look at her, just holding onto her babies. Anyway, she was able to reattach the egg sac to her abdomen, which was a relief.

Then I realized something very important: We needed to baby-proof the terrarium.  

Baby-proofing at the Science Center of Iowa is a little different than the traditional baby-proofing that happens before human babies are born. We covered the top of terrarium with makeshift netting, and I’m really hoping the spiders won’t be able to eat through the netting... Not everybody at SCI would be okay with tiny baby spiders crawling around our offices.   

Squishy's eggs have not hatched yet - a wolf spider's gestation period can vary from 9 to 27 days, depending on the temperature of the environment. (p.s. - Aren't you glad it doesn't work that way for humans?!) When they do hatch, the babies will spend the first few days traveling on Squishy’s back learning the ways of the world. Then, we will put them in the refrigerator so that they hibernate until Spring. Once it's warm enough, we will release them into the great outdoors.

Stay tuned  - a baby spider update will be coming soon!

Jennifer Koska is a Program Coordinator at SCI. As part of her job, she figures out different ways to blow things up and light things on fire to further program development here at SCI and for the entertainment of SCI’s participants and staff. Jennifer studied Environmental Science and Environmental Policy at Drake University. She has worked at SCI since May 2011, when she started as a Programs Presenter. 

Category: General SCI