Spiders

ROM Spider Lab

Museum visitors looking at a spider under black light

Spiders are one of the most remarkable animals on the planet! They spin webs, dance, swim, and even grow back lost limbs. Entangle yourself in the world of spiders when you come face-to-face with nearly 400 amazing live and preserved arachnids in Spiders: Fear & Fascination.

Get up close to the world of arachnids like never before with the ROM Spider Lab. See daily live specimen demonstrations - including venom milking - from our team of expert Spider Wranglers.

Spider pinned on its back while being milked with an electrical device

Spider Lab Schedule*

Weekdays between 11:00 AM-4:00 PM

Weekends between 11:00 AM-5:00 PM

*Spider Lab times are subject to change. Daily schedule available on site.

Meet the Spider Wranglers

Gil Wizen

Gil Wizen

Chief Spider Wrangler

Previously: Entomologist and photographer

Mateus Pepinelli

Mateus Pepinelli

Part-time Spider Wrangler

Previously: Full-time postdoctoral fellow

What does a spider wrangler do?

We primarily take care of the live arthropods at the Museum. This includes feeding, watering, ensuring proper rearing conditions in enclosures for the spiders, and keeping records on special events like moulting, venom extraction, breeding, and mortality. A major component of our role in the Spiders exhibition includes the extraction (or milking) of venom from spiders and scorpions in front of the Museum visitors. The venom is later sent to labs overseas to be used in research.

How long have you been working with spiders?

I have been doing this almost my entire life, since I was very young. I got interested in insects at age 8 and was very quickly drawn to the field of husbandry and breeding of arthropods, starting with butterflies, grasshoppers, and beetles, and moving to other insect groups and arachnids later on. My first experience with venom milking was at the age of 14 when I extracted venom from a live scorpion.

What's your favourite spider?

Spiders are too numerous and diverse to pick a favourite, I find them all fascinating. But if I must narrow it down I would go with two favourite spiders:

  • Jumping spiders, because they are inquisitive and intelligent little hunters that deploy many interesting prey-catching techniques. They’re also cute!
  • Brazilian wandering spider. Despite being one of the world’s most venomous spiders, these spiders are quite shy. When they feel threatened they lift their first two pairs of legs, revealing warning colouration of black and yellow bands, and expose their large fangs, which are usually covered with bright red hairs. Even more amazing is that they try to communicate with their aggressor to prevent unnecessary casualties, by tracking their movements while keeping the warning signal displayed.

How many times have you been bitten by a spider?

Countless times. This is something that comes with the job, especially if you are involved in doing fieldwork.

Why aren't you afraid of spiders?

The real question is why would I be afraid of spiders? I find them quite adorable, actually. Most spiders are shy and keep to themselves, and even when we encounter them they usually prefer to avoid confrontation and leave. I would be more afraid of larger animals and even humans, because they can sometimes be unpredictable.

Why are spiders so cool?

Spiders are extremely diverse, and they are found almost anywhere on the planet. The cool thing about them is that they have an unusual combination of different aspects: cool prey-catching techniques, behavioural adaptations, and even a hint of architectural ingenuity. Everyone can find something about spiders that they like.

What does a spider wrangler do?

Most of the animals on display in this exhibition can live for many years (for instance, the Indian Ornamental Tarantula on display is 8 years old!), so spider wranglers are responsible for maintaining a healthy environment throughout the duration of the exhibition. We also run the Spider Lab, where visitors get a close-up view of an amazing roster of arachnids.

How long have you been working with spiders?

Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by the little creatures that run the world. I am an entomologist with more than 17 years of experience working on the ecology, taxonomy, and evolution of aquatic insects. While serving as a wrangler is my first ‘official’ spider job, I have long been interested in arachnids, and have observed and photographed them since I was an undergraduate student in Brazil.

What's your favourite spider?

There are so many cool spiders among the 48,000 currently known to science that it’s hard to choose only one! But if pressed, I would say that the recently discovered Spid-a-boo jumping spider is at (or near) the top of my list. Despite their minute size, what makes this species special is the behaviour of males during mating. They play peekaboo by waving their paddle-like legs to attract the females.

How many times have you been bitten by a spider?

Just a few times during field trips, but only by species that don’t have potent venom. My most memorable stories of being bitten concern bloodsucking insects, like black flies, mosquitos, and horse flies!

Why aren't you afraid of spiders?

Even though all spiders are venomous, the vast majority do not have venom potent enough to harm humans. More importantly, spiders will invariably try to avoid contact with you. Consequently, the chance of being bitten is minimal. Simply put, there is no reason to be afraid of spiders. In fact, I am fascinated by them and I will try to get close-enough to snap a pic whenever I can.

Why are spiders so cool?

Have you observed spiders up close? They come in many different shapes, sizes, and colours, and they exhibit an amazing array of adaptations for feeding, mating, caring for their young, sensing their environment, spinning their silk, etc. They all have venom and can climb on all sorts of surfaces – some can even dive underwater! Watching a female orb weaver spider construct her web is an unforgettable experience and is worth the wait. She invariably creates a masterpiece.

Date & Time

  • Daily; times vary

Location

Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall

Contact

416.586.8000
info@rom.on.ca


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