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The City Journals

Spider festival puts positive spin on these beneficial creatures

Sep 16, 2020 02:09PM ● By Katy Whittingham

A spider found outside the Visitor’s Center during the eighth annual Antelope Spider Festival at Antelope Island State Park. (Katy Whittingham/City Journals)

By Katy Whittingham  |  [email protected]

COVID-19 did not spoil the fun for those wishing to celebrate our arachnid friends as the eighth annual Antelope Island Spider Festival went on, mostly virtually, Aug. 3-8.  

Wendy Wilson, the leader of the event and Antelope Island State Park’s assistant manager, compiled feedback from this year’s participants, and said daily events included “photo contests, poetry readings, presentations, DIY crafts, scavenger hunts, citizen science and guided walks.” The goal of the festival is to promote “the opportunity to connect with the community around the appreciation and protection of spiders and the ecosystems they support.” Goody bags were given to participants that included a Spider Fest 2020 neck buff. 

Community partners including Swaner EcoCenter, Natural History Museum of Utah, Eccles Wildlife Education Center, Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster, Thanksgiving Point, Ogden Nature Center, Gossamer Labs, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Utah State University, and Friends of the Great Salt Lake, helped to provide resources aimed at alleviating the fear around spiders and busting some myths by showing what a critical role they have in our ecosystems. The annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears, which provides an in-depth examination into concerns of average Americans, found in 2018 that 22.6% of Americans reported being “afraid” or “very afraid” of spiders and insects. 

Since the festival’s events were family oriented, the hope is that children will not inherit this fear through proper education. With most taking place virtually this year, the majority of the content is still available on the Antelope Island State Park website, including facts about spiders.  

Some of those facts include: spiders are not insects; spiders are born with eight legs, but since they can be easily lost or damaged, are often are found with less; female spiders are usually bigger than males; and a typical spider can eat around 2,000 insects a year.  

While most spiders are venomous, the majority are not what is referred to as “medically significant” meaning that their venom may have a severe effect on a significant percentage of humans. The only medically significant spider found in Utah is the Black Widow. Brown Recluse spiders are not found here, although there are over 600 known species of spiders in the state. 

For more information and content visit the “Antelope Island Spider Fest 2020” Facebook event page or the Antelope Island State Park website.