Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Arachnids at PGM or Spidey-sense and Sensibility

Some of you might have seen the animals that call Pueblo Grande home along the trail. There are the more obvious ones, like birds and lizards, but there are also the less obvious ones, like insects and arachnids. There are many varieties of arachnids here at PGM, such as spiders and harvestmen (daddy long legs) and their less well-known cousins, scorpions, solpugids, and tailless whip scorpions, and they are valued because they eat insects that might otherwise damage plants or even harm our artifact collections! For this reason arachnids are generally welcome in certain parts of the museum, but only as long as they stay in out-of-the-way places. Sometimes it is necessary to relocate them to other areas. When this happens, we capture the spider (or scorpion, or solpugid, etc.) in a bug jar and release it in a remote part of the museum grounds so it can continue to live and eat bad bugs.

Like this! What spider is this?! Does it have a nasty bite?
I’d rather not find out!
Perhaps the most common kind of arachnid here at the museum is the spider. There are several different kinds of spiders at PGM (I’ll also include daddy long legs here even though they are not really spiders). Some are dangerous and must be removed immediately. Others, such as jumping spiders and daddy long legs, are not dangerous at all and are removed more for their own safety. Sometimes, we don’t even use a bug jar if they are not dangerous. If we aren’t sure if something is dangerous or not, we use one just to be safe!

Or, in this case, we need to use a large drink cup…
a very large drink cup.
There are different types of scorpions at PGM as well, and they are pretty much removed without exception (using a bug jar, of course)! Thankfully, it is rare to see scorpions around PGM since they prefer brush piles and the like, but it is not unheard of. This one of the reasons why it is important to stay on the trail!

Seen just prior to release and sweet, tasty freedom.

Solpugids are something many of you may not be familiar with. They have many names, including wind scorpion and camel spider, and just as many myths associated with them. You may have seen or heard about them in association with Iraq, where they supposedly are poisonous, run as fast as a horse, and can jump up and disembowel a camel! None of this is even remotely true, but solpugids are fast, fearsome predators in their own right. Although they are not poisonous, they do have large jaws and are relocated using bug jars since none of us wants to find out what their bite is like!

Would I even be doing this if it was dangerous? Maybe!
The tailless whip scorpion is very rarely seen since they generally prefer more humid conditions; I’ve only see one at PGM twice in eight years. If you see one at home, don’t freak out! The tailless whip scorpion is harmless (unless you happen to be a small bug) and lives in dark, narrow places, sweeping its special elongated whip-like legs back and forth searching for prey. As is the case with most critters like this in the desert, the scarier it looks, the less threatening it really is!

Posted By April Carroll, Contract Associate Archaeologist - Archaeology Office

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