Our CEO received a wonderful letter late last year from a member of the public who was particularly delighted with the help he received from the Discovery Centre to identify the spider that had taken up lodgings in his window. Here's part of the letter:
My wife and I, both Age Pensioners and Empty Nesters, live in a two-storey rectangular 1960s house.To avoid having to walk up and down sixteen stairs to find out what the weather is outside I installed an outside thermometer on the south side, which is viewed through the kitchen window at eye level above the sink.
This turned out to be an ideal spot for a Black House Spider to nest and spin its web. It was high enough to catch prey yet was a hideaway against bird strike. I was curious just what the spider was, and that's when I started asking questions of your staff. And they came up trumps! I won't name names as everyone I have spoken to over the months has been the same - 100% helpful.
The result is that I have watched the complete life cycle of this female - mating, nesting, offspring leaving - something not normally available to a householder. Two days a week we mind two sets of three primary school grandchildren after school, from different families, and I have been able to let them watch and ask questions and develop their own curiosity. I can guarantee that there are now six children who will not kill a spider as a natural reflex.
I enclose a photo of the first mating attempt - he was breakfast next day. Two days later another male repeated the ritual, he was gone next morning, but the inscrutable smile on the face of the female told its own story. She produced three clusters of eggs, but once the spiderlings had left the last clutch she then changed her former careful habits. Usually she only emerged from behind the thermometer at dusk but on the fateful afternoon was busy repairing the web in clear view and bright light. Vale Mother!
I do thank you and your staff for the interest and care you have displayed. It has generated an interest I hadn't explored before, and the long-term benefit of educating the next generation cannot be overstated.
What a lovely letter to receive. Well done, Discovery Centre! If you have a critter you'd like identified, send the DC staff a request via the Ask the Experts form. Your query might end up featured in a Your Questions blog post!