For several years, North Carolina State Parks has had an annual theme for many of its interpretive programs to systematically explore the natural world. And, the theme is celebrated with a special bandana. This year’s theme is “Spiders!”
Although some will find this theme to be downright creepy, there is so much about spiders that makes them fascinating. Did you know that all spiders spin silk, but not all spiders spin webs. Wolf spiders leave “drag lines” behind when they walk as a way to communicate and find a mate. Trapdoor spiders dig burrows and cover them with doors of soil and silk, then swing the door open to grab prey. To keep from getting stuck in their silk, special oils cover spiders’ bodies, and their hairy feet often have special web-walking hooks.
Spiders are a valuable food source for many small mammals, birds, and fish. In fact, they are vital to maintaining healthy ecosystems by eating insect pests, by pollinating plants and by recycling dead animals and plants back into the earth. Spiders eat more insects than birds and bats combined. There’s even a species of spider in Central America that’s a vegetarian.
Despite their nasty reputation, spiders are just as cool and important to the ecosystems of North Carolina State Parks as any other animals. The spruce-fir moss spider, one of the few federally endangered spiders, is known to live only in high elevation forests like those on Mount Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain. With hundreds of spider species in North Carolina – and dozens yet to be discovered – these amazing arachnids are among the most diverse animals around. It is our hope this year to help others ‘take a spin’ to see just how cool spiders can be!