The Newfoundland Insectarium

Deer Lake, Newfoundland, Canada

September 1st, 2001

This adventure actually started a long way away from Newfoundland. It seems that while on Cape Breton Island one morning Laura asked that well coined joke "Hey Bob, what is black and white and has large green eyes that glow in the dark?" my response of course was "I don't know, Honey, what is ... black and white and has great green eyes?" The punch line came quickly enough, "I don't know either, Dear, but it's just above your left shoulder." Conditioning being what it is, although figuring I was the butt of one of the oldest jokes ever told, I could not resist stealing a glance over my shoulder. There crouched in the corner of the window, just inches from my shoulder was a spider about the size of a dime. Black with white stripes, it squatted back on 6 legs while keeping the front two legs up in a fighting position like a prize fighter. Between these two front muscular legs were two huge glowing green eyes. Like two flashlights they emitted a bio-luminous glow undimmed by the bright sunlight that surrounded it. As quick as a flash it darted away but not before I had snapped a sadly out of focus picture of this most unusual creature. Now, as we drove through Deer Lake, Newfoundland, we passed the Newfoundland Insectarium I couldn't help think of that most unusual spider and wondered if it was a rare find such as the Regal Horned Lizard I had come upon in Arizona or just a common but unusual inhabitant of the north island. The Insectarium was built in an old barn and was two stories of some of the most interesting and beautiful insects and spiders I had ever seen. One of only two in Canada it was beautifully laid out. Upon entering, I was informed that the entomologist could be found on the second floor. A most knowledgeable-looking gentleman was engaged in a discussion with some of the visitors as he stood by the working honey bee colony. He was explaining that the colony had just disposed of their less-than-productive queen and were awaiting the arrival of the new queen expected to hatch within a few days. In the meantime, they were only producing male (drones). At an appropriate time I popped my question about the spider hoping for a surprised look of disbelief. No such luck. Lloyd Hollett, a three year employee of the Insectarium, smiled and said, "Quite beautiful aren't they?" Over the next few minutes I learned that in fact they are a common spider in Nova Scotia of the SALTICIDAE family and are web-less, jumping spiders, quite harmless, he assured me. They come out only in the daytime, as to appear at night would mean a quick death, instantly located by the bright green glow of their eyes. Having satisfied my curiosity, I wondered off in search of new and interesting species of the insect world. Laura continued conversing with Lloyd. My attention returned to her, directed by her sharp call of my name. There standing in the middle of the room was my lovely wife who, although not particularly vicious, in most cases, has a definite aversion to creepy crawly things, especially when they are walking over her body. On her upturned wrist, walking steadily toward her upper arm was one of the strangest looking, very large insects I had ever seen. The Macleay's Spectre Stick (Extatasoma tiaratum) is native to northern Austraila and Paua, New Guinea. They live high in the vegetation of eucalyptus or oak trees. While the males are slender, graceful fliers, the females like the one on Laura's arm are large and wingless. They spend their day swaying back and forth like leaves. They live about a year. Well that was quite a way to spend the afternoon, not to mention a little bit of knowledge tucked away for a buggy day. What can I say?

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