Bipartisan legislation passed the House overwhelmingly on Tuesday designating the Golden Silk Spider as North Carolina’s official state spider. House Bill 595 is the result of work by a first grade class that was studying state symbols.
Students at Isaac Dickson Elementary School in Asheville were reviewing North Carolina’s General Statutes on state symbols with the goal of teaching a fourth grade class about what they had learned, and along the way they decided to pursue getting the Golden Silk adopted as the state spider.
As a result of their research, the talented students drafted language for a bill to be introduced in the legislature. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Susan Fisher, challenged her colleagues to find a better candidate for this particular honor.
Vigorous debate on the House floor ensued.
Representative Beverly Boswell said she would support the bill, despite suffering from arachnophobia. According to Health Research Funding, “over 30.5% of the entire population of the United States suffers from this intense fear” of spiders.
Representative Mark Brody asked, “If I’m working outside and step on one and squish it, will I get a citation from Wildlife? (the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission)” Despite Representative Fisher’s assurance that he would not, the Union County legislator would go on to vote against the legislation.
Representative Bill Brawley asked the bill’s sponsor how to pronounce the scientific Latin name of the spider: ‘nephila clavipes.’ Representative Fisher, calling on her childhood mastery of Latin, was happy to oblige. Representative Brawley, obviously impressed, went on to congratulate Fisher and say that he wanted “to compliment the education level of the first graders that prepared this bill — and I was wondering if we were hiring because it seems they’re qualified already.”
Representative Jay Adams had little of substance to add to the debate except to say, “Go spiders!” — presumably a reference to the athletic teams of Concord High School in Cabarrus County, Home of the Spiders. Representative Adams was unavailable for further comment.
Seeking further clarification on the proposed legislation, Rules Chairman David Lewis rose to ask Representative Fisher if the Golden Silk spider was “one of those spiders where the female eats the male.” Reluctantly, Representative Fisher answered, “yes, in fact, this was one of those spiders.”
Representative Lewis was referring to the disturbing concept of “spider cannibalism,” a not uncommon practice whereby female spiders eat a male spider after — and sometimes, shockingly, even during — the act of copulation. According to Shawn Wilder and Ann Rypstra from Miami University, the motivation for this behavior is simple: “It’s all about size. If males are small, they’re easier to catch and therefore more likely to be prey. Big females eat their puny mates simply because a) they’re hungry and b) they can.”
“Mr. Speaker, I’m going to support the bill,” remarked Representative Lewis. “But I think for the children listening and the children sitting in the gallery, we may learn to watch who sponsors a bill — in case there may be a hidden meaning in every bill that comes forward.”
Representative Susan Martin rose to say she would support the bill, “but not the particular eating habits of this spider.” Debate ended and a vote was taken. House Bill 595 passed with a vote of 111 to 8.
Should the legislation be approved by the Senate and signed into law, the Golden Silk Spider would join the opossum as one of our state’s official animals. The opossum was designated the state’s official marsupial in 2013.
The North Carolina Secretary of State reports that the legislature has adopted a wide range of official state symbols over the years: we have a state beverage (milk), a state vegetable (the sweet potato), a state bird (the cardinal), a state dog (the plott hound), a state butterfly (the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail), a state insect (the honeybee), a state rock (granite), a state fruit (the Scuppernong Grape), a state Christmas Tree (the Fraser Fir), and a state carnivorous plant (the Venus Flytrap), to name just a few.