Get Ready for the 40-Foot-Long Black Widow Spider!

Apr 16, 2015

In real life, the black widow spider is about 1.5 inches long.

You'd never know that if you looked in the backyard of UC Davis entomologists Robert and Lynn Kimsey.

The UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by Robert Kimsey, is building a 40-foot-long black widow spider for the UC Davis Picnic Day Parade on Saturday, April 18.

Latrodectus hesperus has never looked so...well...huge!

And so colorful--right down to the distinctive red hourglass.

What's it like seeing a huge spider coming to life in your backyard?

“Well, it is very weird!” said Robert Kimsey, a forensic entomologist and longtime advisor of the club. “It is huge and currently in pieces as it is getting its skin and pedipalps and other minor body parts and whatnot.  It is anatomically correct in every way!  The students have been trained well in arachnology!”

“There are legs all over the place,” Kimsey said. Each is slightly less than 20 feet long. "Again, it is huge.  I have to admit that there are some brilliant artists and engineers in this group! But looking out the windows into the backyard takes your breath away. Any non-biologist would completely go to pieces.”  

Along with anyone suffering from arachnophobia.

The last time the the UC Davis Entomology Club entered a float in the UC Davis Picnic Day Parade was about 20 years ago.  And yes, it was a black widow spider (see photo below)

“The spider idea collectively came from all members of the cabinet after hearing about past picnic days from Bob,” said Entomology Club vice president Alex Nguyen. “When we presented it to the club we received very positive feedback so we decided to commit to marching in the parade with a float this year.”

The spider represents a month of planning and two weeks of building, Nguyen said.

During the parade, Entomology Club president Marko Marrero will be inside the spider, hoisting it up, and walking with it, along with two people at each leg.

If you want to see the spider, the opening ceremony of the parade begins at 9:25 a.m. in the grandstands on the North Quad Avenue across from Wickson Hall. The parade begins at 10, snakes downtown, and ends at noon. Announcement locations include the beginning of the parade; second and D Street in downtown Davis; F street in front of PDQ Fingerprinting; and third and C Street in downtown Davis.

You can also see the spider after the parade. It will be showcased in front of Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, where scores of entomological events will take place, including cockroach races, maggot art, honey tasting, and fly-tying. There will be a bee observation hive, ant displays, and displays of mosquitoes, forest insects and aquatic insects.

The UC Davis Entomology Club and the Entomology Graduate Student Association will be working the booths, along with faculty and staff.

Membership in the UC Davis Entomology Club is open to all interested persons (email Members are faculty, staff, students (college and high school) and community residents.

They have at least one thing in common: they're interested in insects and other arthropods, including arachnids (spiders).

Even at picnics...and parades...