Spiders are the stars at the Natural History Museum
Spiders are the stars at the Natural History Museum

Along Came a Spider Pavilion: Big Spiders Are Back at the Natural History Museum

The spiders are back! COVID has not stopped LA arachnophiles from enjoying the Spider Pavilion, that screened pavilion on the Natural History Museum’s South Lawn that becomes seasonal home to more free-range, eight-legged tenants than anyone in his right mind could want. The Spider Pavilion is an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare and an eight-year-old boy’s version of heaven.

If you've ever visited the museum’s annual Butterfly Pavilion, you're familiar with the throngs of smiling families that pass through oohing, ahhing, and extending fingers. The fall Spider Pavilion crowd behaves quite differently – more along the lines of gasping, shuddering, and shrinking away. I've never seen a single spider house visitor needing a reminder not to touch. Enormous creatures (on the scale of what you don't want to find in your bathtub) perch in the center of doubly enormous webs, hanging out and waiting for museum staff to toss a few worms and grasshoppers their way.

No one needs a reminder not to touch at the Spider Pavilion.

The dramatic-looking spiders journey here from as far away as the swamps of Louisiana, though local varieties are also represented. Breeds inclined to sit in their webs are chosen for the exhibit, and we learned that only females are selected because the she-spiders are so much bigger than the he-spiders.  The Spider Den houses those spiders that are best viewed while safely contained behind glass,  including tarantulas, wolf spiders, and jumping spiders; the spiders spinning free are those not considered dangerous to humans.

Daytime visits are great for photo ops, though as darkness creeps in the creepy crawlies become more active; if a knock-down, drag-out spider brawl sounds like a good time, plan your visit for late in the afternoon; some years flashlight tours are added to the schedule, though 2020 doesn't seem to hold that option. Nighttime is also when spiders gobble up their own webs and rebuild them someplace else (TMI?) in case anyone was wondering.

Magnifying glasses are fun, but the spiders in this exhibit are plenty big.

In a season pinned between Halloween and Christmas, slipping in an outing that has a big educational element feels good—in spite of all those icky, hairy legs.

Spider Pavilion 2020 dates: October 25 - November 29.  (Museum closed Thanksgiving Day).
10:00am-5:00pm (last entry 4:30pm)
Spider Pavilion admission: $6 

Photos by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging courtesy of the Natural History Museum

Originally published October 13, 2011

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