Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Girl, Something Must Be Wrong With You"

    Warning: This is going to be a kind of rant about arachnophobia and why it bothers me.

      If I had a dollar for every time someone said that I was crazy, out of my mind, or "just not right" for liking spiders, I'd be a rich woman right now. The overwhelming majority of people I come into contact with can't stand spiders, and don't mind letting me know that. Many people have told me to stay far away from them because I actually like spiders. So I have. I don't want to scare people needlessly. Neither do the spiders that I almost constantly have with me in an assortment of vials and containers.

     One teacher, my biology professor, that I've had class with has threatened my grade because a spider "followed" me to class. In a petri dish. That I put it in. But that's beside the point! No matter what I tried, arachnophobia has been an enemy to me.

     But why the hate? Spiders are everywhere. With the exception of just a few, spiders can't really hurt us. I just don't get why people have to be so dang arachnophobic. There are so many reasons to respect and be thankful for our eight-legged friends, that it seems strange to me when people say stuff like "I just hate spiders. They're awful." Seriously, stop the hate.

    On That note, I've been reading some case reports that show that emersion therapy can help with arachnophobia. I guess that's what I've been doing, emersing people in a spider-friendly environment, hoping for the best. Some folks will listen. I've helped a lot of friends overcome their aversion to spiders just by talking about spiders near them. After a while, I show them spiders, intentionally or not quite so, and their interest is piqued. That, in my experience, is where the arachnophobia comes to a true end.

     In that respect, Audacia, my Chaco Golden Knee tarantula, has been my best teammate. People love her. That's why I like to have her with me at workshops and presentations. She's the Arachnophobia-blaster part of our team. True emersion therapy with eight legs. Who knows, maybe in the future spiders will be respected more. Shoot, they deserve a little more respect than they get now, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adventure Recap: Tishomingo State Park

     On April 29, I went along on the annual field trip for the Mississippi Native Plant Society. This year's trip was to one of my favorite places in the state: Tishomingo State Park in northeastern Mississippi.

     The day started early, with my alarm clock jolting my twin sister, a Horticulture Major, and myself awake at 4:00A.M. We had our bags packed for the trip in advance, and we were ready to go. We met a friend, Edward, a grad student at the college we attend, and rode together out to Dr. John Guyton's house. We loaded up in the van, which was packed with gear, and headed out on the 3+ hour trip to the park.

     On the way, we discussed plants, insects, and spiders, of course. As we rode, we noted the wildflowers along the sides of the road. I'm not much of a plant expert, so I listened intently as Sis and the others talked about the different plants. Pretty soon, though, I saw something that caught my eye. There were spider webs all along the road. Funnel webs in the style of spiders in the family Agelenidae. We stopped near a rest stop on the Natchez Trace to pick flowers for a plant talk scheduled for later that day. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the webs.

           As you can see in the picture, a few of the webs had their little occupants in them. We continued on from there to the park. We arrived before people started showing up, in order to help set up.  Dr. Kelly, who is the President of the Mississippi Native Plant Society, was there waiting on us. I was thrilled to find out that she had a present for me as soon as we got there. Waiting in a ziploc bag was a scorpion!

        Mississippi has only one species of scorpion, Vaejovis carolinianus (Beauvois) It's not a large scorpion, an inch or two in length if you include the tail. It 's not  a dangerously venomous species, either. This makes it a really neat pet. I used the scorpion to help me teach some of the people who were steadily arriving about some really neat arachnids. Using a pocket sized blacklight that I borrowed from Dr. John, I showed anyone who I could get to something that most folks had never heard of.
     When scorpions are exposed to the light from a blacklight, they flouresce. This neat reaction was a fun thing to show to the children who were there. They were all amazed by it.
      After a short time of being there, I was pegged as the "Spider Woman." I spent a while answering questions about spiders and insects of all kinds. I went along on hikes, collecting spiders as I went, and helped answer spider questions when they arose. I was no help on the plant aspect of the trip, which was the point of the field trip, but I learned a ton.

     All in all, I found eighteen different species of spiders that day. It was a fulfilling day in that respect. It was also worth every moment to see the realization that spiders aren't all bad dawn on the people I was talking to.