According to NASA “Black widow spiders and their Australian cousins, known as redbacks, are notorious for an unsettling tendency to kill and devour their male partners. Astronomers have noted similar behavior among two rare breeds of binary system that contain rapidly spinning neutron stars, also known as pulsars.”
At Crossroads’ Astronomy Campus on Tuesday, August 4, the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will hold their regular monthly meeting at 7:00 and Dr. John J. Beck will present “Black Widow Pulsars” The program, consisting of an illustrated lecture including video clips as well as question and answer time, will be held at at the Stonecipher Astronomy Center, 2021 Utah Street.
So if one star system appears to be devouring another star system, is it appropriate to name it for cannibalistic spider? Actually, yes.
The aptly named Black Widow Spider female does tend to feast on her mate. Sometimes. But so do quite a few other species of spiders and several orders of insects….and there are quite a few theories for why they take their tiny mates out for dinner.
Some people think that, like the ravenous female mosquitoes that have been feeding on us lately, that females spiders benefit from a pre-natal protein supplement just before they lay their eggs, and that might be the answer.
But in Scientific American, writer Naia Rogers offers these intriguing explanations:
“She’s choosy. She wants to mate, but not with the male in front of her, so she holds out for someone better. In the meantime, hey, free meal.
“She’s just hungry. “It doesn’t matter if you have a great father for your offspring if you’re going to die tomorrow. If you’re starving, eat him,” says Jonathan Pruitt, assistant professor of behavioral ecology at the University of Pittsburgh, who has studied cannibalism in funnel-web spiders.
“She has terrible impulse control. A successful spider is a voracious predator. The more she eats, the more resources she can devote to making big, healthy egg sacs.”
When the male spider makes amorous advances, should he be clumsy or inept, she surely will eat him. On the other hand, if she’s well fed and he makes all the right moves, he may live to mate another day.
The theory that make the most sense to me is that a female spider is instinctively programmed to devour any small creature that happens to vibrate in her web. Males spiders are significantly smaller than the females so they probably vibrate just like a hapless insects. She may never even recognize him as a potential mate.
Most of the insects which struggle in a spider web are creatures we consider pests.
Most people–even gardeners –have no concept of how important spiders (cannibalistic or not) are for providing chemical -free pest control in our gardens, lawns, and orchards.
Speaking of orchards, the Door County Historical Society will be offering a program called “First Cherries In Door County”. The presenter, George Evenson, will share his childhood memories of this locally grown fruit. The program starts at 2:00 on Sunday, August 2 in the Heritage Village at Big Creek.
Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor support preserve welcoming learners of all ages to programs in science, history and the environment. The Collins Learning Center (located at 2041 Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay) is open 1:30-3:30 daily and during scheduled events.
Wednesday, July 29
10:00 Family Program: Gifts of the Glaciers
Be a geology detective and learn how the massive Ice Age Glaciers pushed across Wisconsin, leaving hills and deep valleys, our lakes, and habitats for birds and animals. Meet in the Entry Level of the Collins Learning Center.
1:30 Historical Program: One Room School and First Door County Chapel
Gather with schoolchildren, ages 4-18, in a one room school to learn reading, script, and ciphering. Meet at the Vigness School in the Heritage Village.
Thursday, July 30
10:00 Family Program: Butterflies
Get acquainted with our local butterflies and explore their breeding habitats. Free and open to the public. Meet in the Entry Level of the Collins Learning Center.
1:30 Blacksmiths at Work in the Village
Visit the Granary a watch blacksmiths make tools, housewares, and wrought iron products. Meet at the Blacksmith Shop in the Heritage Village.
Sunday, August 2
2:00 Historical Society Program: First Cherries in Door County
The presenter, George Evenson, will share his childhood memories of this locally grown fruit. Meet in the Heritage Village at Big Creek.
Monday, August 3
10:00 Family Program : “Amazing Great Lakes Fish”
Enjoy our Great Lakes Exhibit as you learn about the habitats required of fish under the waves. Free for all ages. Meet in the Entry Level of the Collins Learning Center
Tuesday, August 4
10:00 Family Program: Mammals Like Us
Select a Door County animal from the Wildlife Exhibit in the Collins Learning Center. Then join the summer educator on a nature hike to search for your animal’s habitat. Free for all ages. Meet in the Entry Level of the Collins Learning Center.
1:30 History Program: Life on The Warren Farm and Schopf Log House
Experience farm life with Grandma Warren and explore the house where a family of eight played danced and sang. The visit the neighbors in the Schopf Log Cabin. Meet at the General Store in the Heritage Village.
7;00 August Meeting of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society
“Black Widow Pulsars” will be presented by John J. Beck at the regular monthly meeting of Door Peninsula Astronomical Society, The program consists of an illustrated lecture including video clips as well as question and answer time. meetings are held at the Astronomy Building, 2020 Utah Street (use the Utah Street Entrance and travel Stargazer Trail to the Stonecipher Center.