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An Eight-Legged Camp Mascot

July 28, 2011 | Tag(s): Summer Zoo Camp
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo

An eight-legged creature that was dropped off by a visitor (whose wife was terrified of it!) has become the zoo camp darling. We now have a beautiful, plump, black and yellow Argiope garden spider that lives in our small education tree.  She has quickly become the darling of zoo camp.  A small group of very mischievous 6 year old boys have adopted her and named her, “Elly”.  They watch her and guard her from other mischievous gangs of 6 year old boys. 

When she arrived I put her in the tree and hoped she would stick around for us to observe.  The next morning when we arrived she had built her distinctive large flat web in the tree branches.  I explained to the campers that her type of spider is known for the white zig zag threads she puts in the middle of the web.  I told the campers she is also called the “writing spider” and they immediately tried to read messages in the zig zag threads.  Every day we observe her and I field lots of questions.  Does she bite?  Is she venomous?  Why did she move the web?  What does she do in the rain?  Will she have babies?

We watched her catch a wasp in her web and wrap it up like a mummy.  I told the kids she will drink the prey’s juices rather than eat the wasp body.  The boys found that to be fascinating.  We noticed that she changed her web location every day or so and I explained how she destroys, eats and rebuilds her web.  

I hope she sticks around until camp ends.  I love watching the kids watch her and show great concern if her web gets touched or the rain pours.  “Elly” is a great camp instructor.  She is teaching the campers better lessons than any of us two-legged creatures can.

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