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Head Start- Spider Activity Information

Activity- Spider Web Ball Toss

Activity Summary- Students will stand at different distances (based on age) and throw sticky
bugs (ping pong ball with Velcro) at a spider web (hula hoop with Velcro). The goal is to have
the bugs stick to the web in hopes of attaining a prize. In the process, we hope to teach the
children some interesting facts about spiders, the webs they weave, the prey they specialize in
and the careers associated with these facts.

Audience- Families and Children (ages 2 and up)

Time Needed- Very short activity

1-2 minutes to throw balls at web
Any additional time will be used to display bug cases and answer questions associated with

Learning Objectives (will be explained on a later sheet in this document) -

1. Identify common spiders in the state of Utah (specifically Northern Utah)
 Funnel Web Spiders
o Hobo Spider- brown spider commonly confused with a brown house spider.
 Tangle Web Spiders (Cobwebs)
o Black Widow- easily identifiable by the red hour glass shape on females. Rather
timid spiders unless provoked to attack.
 Orb Weaver Spiders
o Banded Orb Weaving Spider- can be identified by the bands on both their
abdomen and their legs.
o “Cat Face” Orb Weaving Spider- identified by the projections on their back that
look like cat ears
 Hunting Spiders
o Wolf Spiders- Don’t spin webs but rather hunt prey and pounce like that of a
o Yellow Sac Spiders- don’t use a full web but rather a small sac to help capture
o Woodlouse Spider- red body with white abdomen. These spiders look “fierce” but
do not pose a threat to humans.
 Ground Spiders
o Drassodes Genus- not dangerous and are typically red, brown or grey. These
spiders are hunters
 Jumping Spiders- identifiable by the way they jump to move around
o Bold Jumper- Smaller spiders with a white spot on the back of their abdomen and
green chelicerae. The most common spiders in Utah.
 Crab Spiders
o Bark Crab Spider- distinct crab like legs (front legs longer than the back)
 Tarantulas
o Brown Tarantula- big, brown, hairy spiders that roam in the foothills of Utah.
Docile spiders with a lone goal of mating. Their main defense is to rub hairs off
their abdomen into a predators mouth.
2. How are webs produced in the spider’s body?
 Web silk is stored in the spiders’ body in the form of a protein liquid. Each protein
sequence designs a different type of web that solidifies once it is emitted. One example of
a type of protein used by spiders is a protein used to keep the web sticky as opposed to a
protein that keep the web rigid. Each web is a distinctly different type of web produced
by a distinct protein.
3. What parts of a spider web are sticky?
 The webs stickiness comes from a special polymer adhesive secreted by a different gland
on the spider abdomen. They secrete these drops in strategically placed spots on the web
to make it sticky. Usually, they leave the middle of the web less sticky so they can move
around freely. If they need to go on the sticky part, they have tiny claws on the end of
their legs to help them from getting stuck.
4. What affects a spider’s web? (strength and structure specifically)
 The adhesiveness and strength of a spider’s web can be directly affected by temperature,
humidity and light. Studies have been done to show that spiders that inhabit either well
lit, warmer or wetter areas have developed certain evolutionary traits that makes their
webs advantageous for their specific habitat as compared to others.
5. Different spiders spin different webs, so what do these webs look like? (orb weavers, black
widows etc.)
6. Identify the prey of spiders
 The prey of spiders is highly variable depending on the size of the spider and their
location. Usually, spiders feed on other insects and sometimes other spiders. In rare cases,
spiders can grow large enough to feed on small animals such as birds, lizards and rodents.
One case in particular is the Goliath Bird-Eating spider that has been seen attacking large
birds such as crows etc.
7. What are other ways spiders use webs?
 Spiders can be very creative when it comes to the use of their silk. Many hunting spiders
use their silk as drag lines to trail behind them as safety nets while the walk. Many other
spiders use a special type of silk to cover their egg sacs or create small shelters for
themselves. One of the most amazing ways in which silk can be used is, some spiders
actually use their silk to pick up air currents to travel long distances, much like a
8. What are the advantages of spiders? (both in home and outside-relate to previous question)
 Spiders may be scary looking but with the exception of some spiders, like to keep to
themselves. Many will not bite or attach unless provoked because they understand they
will not be able to eat us. With that being said, spiders serve many positives purposes
within our society. The most important of these is they serve as a main type of pest
control. Spiders eat other insects that like to eat your food and other useful products.
Although a spider is unable to chew food, the spider does liquefy the insides of its prey
and eats that. There may be a lot of dead bugs in your home but that means a spider is
doing their job. This is also very important to farmers as spiders can protect crops.
9. How do humans use spider webs and their designs?
 Spider venom has been preliminarily used as a biomedical agent. Some researchers
around the world are trying to use spider venom as an agent to heal muscular dystrophy.
Other have used different venoms to help identify brain tumors. One main way that
humans find inspiration though is through their silk. Because their silk is flexible, light,
strong and water resistant, scientists have begun pursuing biomimicry (biology inspired
by natural occurrences). They have used their studies to develop things such as
prosthetics, and other medical devices. Researchers also hope to use spider silk as an
inspiration in textiles so they can produce body armor, air bags and maybe even athletic
helmets. One issue in doing this, is spider silk is hard to harvest so researchers also have
to develop new ways to produce of larger scales.
10. What are careers associated with this activity and insects/arachnids in general? (Refer to
career section)

1. Spider- an 8 legged predatory arachnid that inject venom into their prey and predominantly
use webs to capture prey
2. Web- an object created by a spider to capture prey
3. Abdomen- the end segment of an insect’s body
4. Appendage- the legs of a spider
5. Carnivore/Insectivore- an organism that primarily eats either other animals or insects
6. Cephalothorax- the fused head and thorax of spiders
7. Fangs- a large, sharp projection used to bite
8. Chelicerae- the mouthparts of many arachnids, equivalent to the “jaws” of spiders
9. Spinneret-an organ on the back of the abdomen of a spider that produces silk
10. Silk- a protein fiber spun by spiders. This thread is used to make webs as well as egg sacs,
shelter and other useful objects.
11. Venom- a poisonous substance secreted by spiders through biting. Must enter through the
skin to be effective
12. Arachnophobia- the fear of spiders

1. Entomologist (Medical) - an entomologist is a biologist that specializes in the study of insects.
In the medical field, entomologists are used to identify the insects that spread disease and how
these diseases can be stopped through their insect vectors. In many cases, spiders are used to
lower these insect populations and medical entomologists are the ones to determine this.
2. Arachnologist- an entomologist that specializes in the study of arachnids.
4. Horticulture specialist- An individual who works in the field of plant/food production. Many
of these crops and plants are feasted on by insects and spiders can be one of the main ways to
stop these insects from destroying beautiful fields.
1. 2 or 3 tables depending on our placement at each event. (3 if we are in the middle, 2 if we can
get a wall spot)
2. Museum tablecloths
3. Both of our traveling bug cases
4. Spider Web Hula Hoop and “Sticky Bugs” (ping pong balls with Velcro)
5. Extra ping pong balls just in case one goes missing or one is broken
6. Master sheet- this sheet will contain our fast facts, different spiders, different webs etc. that we
should know for this event. We will have access to it just in case we can’t remember something
off the tops of our heads.
7. *If we have a middle table* some kind of poster board to place behind the hula hoop so the
balls don’t travel too far
8. Bench seats
9. Step stools
10. Pictures of entomologist with short definition, also, pictures of spiders and their webs
11. Travel case with miscellaneous stuff (tape etc.)

Set Up Procedure
1. Once again this will depend on our placement, but with the table create an L shape to enclose
our set up as much as possible.
2. In the one opening set up the activity and have someone monitor that
3. The other tables will contain our bug cases and our pictures. Two of us will man this station
for any questions etc. but one will also be responsible for helping the activity if things get

Activity Procedure-
1. Set up hula hoop against our set up at an angle
2. Lay down two lines of tape to distinguish where each individual child will be throwing the
balls from.
1. One at about 7-10 feet (younger kids)
2. Another at about 10-15 feet (older kids)
3. Have kids line up in an orderly fashion
4. One at a time, have each student stand at a line
5. Give the kid three balls.
6. Have them toss each ball one at a time
7. If at least one ball sticks they get a prize (Prizes will vary if they get more than one ball to
8. Move on to the next person in line

Fast/Fun Facts about Spiders

1. Spiders are arachnids, not insects (other arachnids include scorpions and ticks)
2. Abandoned spider webs are called cobwebs
3. There are over 4000 different species of spider in the world
4. Tarantulas are large, hairy spiders. The largest in the world have been known to eat birds, mice
and lizards
5. All spiders can spin silk but not all spiders spin webs
6. Spiders can produce different types of silk, some silk is stick others are not.
7. Spiders protect their eggs using their silk. They produce a nest and put the eggs in the nest,
they then lay silk over the top to create a soft pocket
8. Spiders silk is as strong as steel or Kevlar
9. Spiders can’t chew up their prey, instead they inject venom inside their prey which turns their
insides into a liquid. The spider then sucks up the liquid through a feeding tube
10. Female spiders do eat their mates but it’s not because they are mean. They view them as
lunch and don’t necessarily remember they were their mate.
11. Spider babies look exactly like adult spiders, just smaller and most time different in color.
12. Baby spiders are called spiderlings
13. At least one spider uses electricity to capture prey.
 The feather-legged lace weaver uses the hairs on its hind legs to comb its silk. The hairs
create an electrostatic charge which in turns poofs up the silk. They then use this silk to
capture prey
14. Some spiders such as the female Darwin’s bark spider can build webs that can stretch up to
80 feet. They use this tactic to stretch across rivers and lakes to catch larger insects such as
15. The diving bell spider can survive completely underwater. The spider creates a bell shaped
web underwater. The spider then uses its back legs to grab air bubbles from the surface. It then
fills the bell shape with these air bubbles. The oxygen gathered can last up to a full day in the