Ozark Outdoors

Springfield Nature Center Halloween focuses on spiders

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A furry terantula native to the Ozarks. Don't worry, they're not poisonous.

A furry terantula native to the Ozarks. Don’t worry, they prefer a diet of grasshoppers and insects, and are not poisonous.

Although many people cringe at the very thought of a close encounter with spiders, these arachnids do more for humans than provide ideas for decorations at Halloween.

Here’s your chance tearn how spiders benefit us during an evening of education and entertainment at the Missouri Department of Conservation Springfield Conservation Nature Center’s “Halloween Happening: Spider Spree” from 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. This family oriented event offers a night outdoor fun, a few hiking surprises and you might even overcome your fear of this not-so-sinister creatures.

“Spiders are easy targets for portrayal as sinister creatures,” says Springfield Conservation Nature Center Manager Linda Chorice. “They move quickly, startle us by their presence and are often found in dark places like basements and attics.”

Spiders are often envisioned inhabiting little-used parts of our houses, garages and out-buildings; but they’re common in the outdoors, too. It’s estimated approximately 11,000 spiders are in a typical acre of Missouri forest habitat and more than two million spiders can be found in a typical acre of Missouri grassland habitat. These numbers may sound startling, but consider this: Many spiders often consume at least one insect per day, which means spiders play a tremendous role in controlling insect populations. Think about the insect problems we’d have if there weren’t many spiders eating insects.

“Spiders are very important to people because they help control insect populations,” says Chorice. “They are also an important food source for some types of birds and other animals as well.”

At “Spider Spree,” people can learn about spiders in several ways. Each evening of the event, groups will be led on guided hikes on the Nature Center trails where they will meet costume-clad characters that will provide spider knowledge that’s both educational and entertaining. The last hike is scheduled to leave the Nature Center building at 9 p.m. Children are welcome to wear Halloween costumes.

While hikes are taking place on the trails, spider-oriented activities will be going on inside the Nature Center. Free soda and popcorn will be provided. Overflow parking will be available at Bryan University (4255 S. Nature Center Way) and a free shuttle will be provided by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.

There is no registration for this event, but you can call the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, 417-888-4237 for details. Information is also at http://mdc.mo.gov/node/287. The Springfield Conservation Nature Center is located at 4601 S. Nature Center Way in Springfield.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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