December 20, 2012

The Most Poisonous Spider??

If there is one thing you have ever heard about these creepy crawlies it is probably the old myth that:
“Daddy Long Legs are the MOST poisonous spider in the whole world, but their mouths aren’t big enough to bite people.”
Well, let me be the first person to tell you that this is just not the case! There are many levels on which this statement is absolutely false.  So let’s break it down step by step to so we can better understand these long-legged inhabitants of the field and forest.

1.        What we call Daddy Long Legs aren’t actually spiders.  I must first clarify that there are more than one creature that has been referred to as a “Daddy Long Legs”.  There is a type of spider commonly found on the West Coast and in the Southwest desert that has been referred to as “Daddy Long Legs”.  This spider has also been proved to NOT be the most poisonous spider in the world with a mouth too small to bite, which you can see in this short clip from Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters” (http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/videos/daddy-longlegs-minimyth.htm).

Then there is the creature that we commonly see in this part of the country, which has also been referred to as the Harvestman, which isn’t actually a spider.  They look very similar to spiders, (with their eight legs and the way they move). Daddy Long Legs belong to a separate order (opilinoids) of the arachnid class.  Unlike the 8 eyes that spiders have Daddy Long Legs have 2 eyes.  Spiders have 2 body sections, where Daddy Long Legs only have 1.  Daddy Long Legs also don’t construct webs.  So if you find one in a web, it is probably there to become a tasty snack to the real owner of the web.


2.      If Daddy Long Legs were to bite someone, they would inject a venom, not a poison.  Although the terms are often used interchangeable, poison and venom are actually very different.  Poisonous animals are only dangerous when another animal touches it or eats it.  Then the poison is ingested or absorbed.    However, animals that bite other people inject venom.  So calling snakes “poisonous” is actually a misnomer as well, as the proper name would be a venomous snake.  So if the rest of the myth were true, Daddy Long Legs would actually be a venomous animal, not a poisonous animal.

3.      Their mouths aren’t big enough to bite people.  This part of the myth seems to actually have been based in fact.  Harvestmen do not bite humans, and mostly eat decaying matter.  However, they are called “opportunist predators” which means they will eat other living creatures if they get the chance to. 

However, the “Daddy Long Leg” does have some pretty interesting defense mechanisms.  Some species of Opilinoids (there are thousands of different types) release a defensive secretion when under attack.  Some scientists have suggested that this may be poisonous to small animals if ingested (making it a poison not a venom, remember?). 
“Anyone who's tried to catch a daddy longlegs knows they have a tendency to shed their legs. Grab one by the foot, and it promptly lets go of the entire leg and runs off,” Says scientist Debbie Hadley, and then adds, “As an adult with some knowledge of arachnids, I feel a bit guilty about my early years tormenting daddy longlegs. Their legs are not just vital to locomotion, they're also nerve centers. Through its legs, the daddy longlegs may sense vibrations, smells, and tastes. Pull the legs off a harvestman, and you are limiting its ability to make sense of its world.”
So to sum it up, Daddy Long Legs are not the most poisonous spider in the world… They aren’t even spiders!  So now, get out there and do your part to help people understand a little bit more about this misunderstood creatures!

December 12, 2012

One Small Step to a Big Impact on Bullying

Fifteen-year-old Maisie Kate Miller had heard enough. One of her schoolmates always had something belittling to say, and one day, on the stairwell of their high school, the schoolmate made fun of Maisie’s pigtailed hairstyle. Instead of bullying back, Maisie decided to take a stand. That night, Maisie posted a status update on her Facebook page rallying her friends to wear pigtails for a whole week. When Maisie checked in a few hours later, hundreds of people had responded to the movement dubbed, “Pigtails for Peace.” Since then, the student who had mocked Maisie has backed off and has even apologized for her bullying behavior.  Check out the full article in the Washington Post. How do YOU want to make an impact on bullying?

Wear Star Wars, Share Star Wars

Me, in my newest Star Wars T-shirt, posing with my favorite “Wookiee,” Fonzi.
Two years ago, I read a post on one of my favorite blogs about a first grade girl named Katie. Katie was being bullied by her classmates for carrying a Star Wars water bottle in her lunchbox. The first grade boys teased her every day at lunch, telling her that her water bottle was for boys. How many times have you been told that girls couldn’t do something because it was “for boys”?

December 9, 2012

Celebrating S.T.E.M.!



This weekend Girl Scouts celebrated science, technology, engineering and math at our first ever Girls in STEM event- The Next 100 Years.  This was our first attempt at offering girls an opportunity to meet women from their community who work in STEM fields while also sampling many of our own STEM focused council programs.  Held in Lancaster, we had over 80 girls and adults attend along with several community partners who brought along activities and information to share with us!

December 5, 2012

Laurel Highlands Backpacking


On June 10, 1989, I had the extraordinary opportunity to lead a group of Girl Scouts on a backpacking trip. Our challenge was to hike the entire 70 miles of the Laurel Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania. The group had done weekend excursions and lots of miles on local walking trails in preparation for this adventure. “Were we really prepared?” was the question on most minds as we left Ohio that first morning.