Arachnid academics for 10th Virginia Yerxa celebration 

The Colusa Library hosted their first Science Cafe on April 23. Making the event even more red-letter, it commenced the annual Virginia Yerxa Community Read. This year’s book was E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web.” 

Jason Bond, an entomologist at UC Davis, joined with the Master Gardner’s to provide information about spiders.

Bond related his lecture to the tale of “Charlotte’s Web,” a favorite of adults and children. The story is about an unlikely friendship between a spider and pig, who is saved from slaughter, by messages woven into spiderwebs.   

E. B. White, the author, had studied and poured a lot of facts into Charlotte. 

“These spiders are often refereed to as ‘writing spiders’ and where this comes from is, while they don’t really spell things out in their webs, they do these silken ornamentations in their webs,” Bond explained. “For decades, one of the biggest questions in Arachnology is, what are these things all about? Why would a spider put those in the web?” 

This is a phenomenon scientists are still seeking to explain. 

As people from this agricultural county can attest, insects are just part of life. Bond relayed a recent study: “The world population (of spiders) is estimated in weight at about 29 million tons, which is about the same as 478 Titanics. They estimate that spiders are eating somewhere in the neighborhood of 400-800 million tons of insect biomass every year.”

By the end of the speaking engagement, anxieties were squashed by fascination. 

“Spiders are one of the few animal groups that are almost exclusively predatory. Bond said he likes to make the point that spiders who live by attacking and killing “are killing a bunch of dull-witted insects.” 

Considering that spiders are helpful, they might make the perfect roommate. 

“A spider is always watching you,” said Bond, who added according to a recent study of many homes, 100 percent of the homes sampled had spiders in them; 68 percent of the bathrooms had a spider in them, and 75 percent of the bedrooms had a spider in them, and the rest of the rooms had spiders peppered throughout them. 

“Of course if you have spiders in your home, it’s because you have insects in your home,” he said, making Bond’s closing comment that a “spider is always watching you” a little more unsettling. ■