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Scorpions, Spiders Among the Main Attractions at Insect Encounters

March 2, 2015

Today we’re taking you up close to two of the stars of Insect Encounters, annually one of the most popular exhibits at the Florida State Fair held in February. Ian Stocks, Biological Scientist IV, Curator of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, housed at the FDACS Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville, explains each of the creatures.

ScorpionSlenderBrownThe slender brown scorpion, Centruroides gracilis, is the largest of the three scorpion species native to Florida. This one was collected last year on Big Pine Key, and was one of the attractions at the Insect Encounters room. We won’t know for some time, but this one looks like she will soon be a mom, giving birth to live young called scorplings. All three of the scorpions native to Florida are in the genus Centruroides, and although the sting they inflict can be painful, it is not known to be dangerous.

SpiderPantropicalHuntsmanAlso on show this year was one of Florida’s largest spiders–the Pantropical Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda venatoria. This species is not native to Florida, but is common in Central and South Florida. The specimen pictured here has a leg span of over 3 inches, and a body length over 1 inch. They are exceedingly fast, as FDACS-DPI photographer Jeff Lotz can attest. Amazingly, they can run up walls and along ceilings as fast as they can run across the floor. Favored prey are the large cockroaches known in Florida as Palmetto Bugs, so many people like to have the spiders around to keep barns, sheds and other structures cockroach-free.

SpiderHuntsmanCUThe final image, Ian says, is of “the last thing the cockroaches see before becoming lunch.”

An appropriate note on which to close.

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