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Skype Selfie
Here I am in a Skype Selfie during one of my recent Skype Visits. WHAT FUN!! Click on this photo to find out about my school visits on SANDRA MARKLE SPEAKS!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

THE TWELVE ARACHNIDS OF CHRISTMAS ARE BACK!!!





Okay, here it is--the 2017 edition of 

THE TWELVE ARACHNIDS OF CHRISTMAS! 

FIRST, did you know that spiders are the reason it's traditional to put tinsel on trees?



According to the legend, a long time ago in Germany a mother was cleaning the house for Christmas. All the spiders ran away to the attic to stay safe. But that night they came back downstairs. There, they discovered the Christmas tree all decorated with gleaming balls. 

The spiders were so excited, they scurried up and down the tree, checking out everything. Unfortunately, while doing that the spiders covered the beautiful tree with gray webs.

When Santa arrived with gifts, he saw how happy the spinning spiders were. But he knew how sad the children would be to see their web-covered tree. So he touched the tree and the gray webs changed into silver strands. Now the tree was  more beautiful than before.

That's how tinsel came to be...and why every Christmas tree should have a spider in its branches (at least an ornamental spider).


And, sometimes, spiders really do decorate trees for Christmas!






NOW, it's time for the discovery fun and smiles
inspired by my twelve book series: Arachnid World published by Lerner Publishing. 

ENJOY!







On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave me to a black widow in a fir tree.



As I watched, that black widow spider dangled upside down from a silk thread. Next, its exoskeleton (armor-like covering) split open along the back. Then the spider pushed and pulled and crawled out of its exoskeleton.







Give one big holiday cheer! 

That spider has a new bigger body for Christmas.

By the way, are you wondering: "What is an ARACHNID?"
It's an animal that always has an exoskeleton and usually has two main body parts: a cephalothoras (like a head/chest) and an abdomen. It also usually has 8 legs.


On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two striped bark scorpions.


As I watched, the smaller one--the male--grabbed the female's pedipalps (body parts near the mouth). They did a kind of dance, moving forward and backward. Then they went and around and around in circle. They did this over and over for hours.






Did you guess the wind scorpions are doing a mating dance? 
Drink a toast to the happy couple! There will be baby scorpions in the new year. 





On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three wolf spiders.

As I watched, a round ball stuck to one spider's spinnerets (the part that gives out silk) split open. Hundreds of tiny spiders crawled out and onto the big spider.

























She's a new mother for Christmas!




On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four wind scorpions.

Almost at once, one of the wind scorpions ran straight up a nearly vertical rock. How did it keep from falling off? This arachnid has sticky tips on its pedipalps, those long parts you can see at the front of this arachnid.






WHAT A RELIEF!!! The wind scorpion is safe for Christmas!



On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five tarantulas.



One goliath bird-eater tarantula was holding a gecko. As I watched it sank in its fangs and brought up digestive juices.

Why in the world did it do that? This tarantula was preparing its meal by breaking it down first. Even big spiders, like tarantulas have very small mouths. Next, the spider will suck the juice in. 


This spider is having its Christmas dinner. 

Find some goodies to nibble and spit on them before you pop them in your  mouth. That way you can eat like a spider this season. But only try this when you're alone so you don't spoil anyone's Christmas cheer. SMILE!





On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six female cross spiders spinning.


Why were they spinning?  As I watched, a fly landed on one spider's web. That female ran to the fly and shots strands of silk over it.

Now, I understood! She was storing food.





So, in a way, she was wrapping up presents 
for herself. 

Doesn't that just put you in the holiday spirit?!




On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven fishing spiders.



At just that moment, a bat flew past and all the fishing spiders dived down underwater. 






They stayed down for nearly thirty minutes. How were they able to stay underwater for so long? When a fishing spider dives a layer of air coats its body. The spider is able to draw oxygen from the air-filled coat into its book lungs. Those are thin, flat folds of tissue with slits that open through its armor-like exoskeleton.

And, while they were waiting to safely surface, I'm sure they were making their Christmas wish list.






One little fishy for dinner. 
Two little fishies for dinner.
Three little fishies for dinner.
AND MORE!






On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight crab spiders lurking 
inside flowers.


Some goldenrod crab spiders were inside yellow flowers and they were yellow. But one moved to a white flower. Now how would it blend in and hide to catch insects for dinner?

Luckily, when the spider's eyes detect it's on white, its body sheds the yellow coloring matter with its waste. Then it looks white. 





It takes about a week for the spider to change color. But then it's beautifully white as snow for Christmas.





On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine bobbing  harvestmen.



Why were these spiders bobbing? To keep from being eaten by a bigger predator.

Harvestmen bob in a group when a predator, like a bird, is nearby. That way they look like a bigger animal--hopefully too big to eat.


Of course, I like to think they're bobbing in time to a Christmas carol they're humming.


On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten ticks-a-sucking blood 
from their host.

As I watched these female dog ticks over several days, their bodies swelled up until they were nearly six hundred times bigger.








How in the world can they swell so big? It's because the hard part covering their body is made up of layers. They spread, fanning apart, as the tick sucks in blood.


And once so big, the ticks were ready to jiggle just like Santa's big belly when he laughs, 
HO! HO! HO!





On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven jumping spiders jumping.

As I watched, one leapt from one leaf to another to catch an insect.





How could it possibly jump so far? To leap muscles inside the spider's body contract, instantly forcing blood into its four hind legs. This makes them suddenly stretch. And that launches the spider forward.  As it jumps, the spider continually produces silk. It attached that to the surface just before it leapt. So if the spider falls, it dangles instead of crashing.

What's the record for how far a jumping spider can leap? Some have been recorded leaping 40 times their own body length. 


Oh, those spiders could be perfect for pulling Spider Santa's sleigh!

BTW, How far can you jump? Can you jump farther than your body length (meaning your height)?



On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a plant with twelve mites-a-multiplying.

On the first day, I didn't even notice the twelve, tiny two-spotted mites on one of my plant's leaves. After all, each was only 0.02 inch long. However, twelve days later, the plant was nearly covered with web strands dotted with tiny mites. 




Each of the twelve mites was a female and they laid about 10 eggs a day. Soon the young hatched, became adults, mated and the new females started laying eggs too. 


That was a Christmas gift that kept on giving and giving and giving!


One thing for sure, I'll definitely never forget that Christmas, when I received:


12 mites a-multiplying
11 jumping spiders jumping
10 ticks sucking
9 harvestmen bobbing
8 crab spiders lurking
7 fishing spiders fishing
6 orb weavers spinning
5  TARANTULAS
4 wind scorpions
3 wolf spiders
2 scorpions
And a black widow in a fir tree


As he drove out of sight, Spider Claus spun a silk web with a message of cheer. So I'll share it with you here. Spider Claus said,

 "Merry Christmas to all and may all the days ahead spin for you a very Happy New Year!"



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