Arachnophobia may be a common fear, but the University of Richmond Spiders are not afraid. In fact, UR is celebrating spiders all day on March 14, which is national “Save a Spider Day.”

“We were brainstorming and discovered this day, and realized since our mascot is the Spider we needed to be part of it,” said Sam Tannich of University Communications. The team quickly hatched a plan, including a stop-motion animated video created by designer Chris Romero and videographer Kevin Heraldo. In the video a spider lands on the shoulder of a student wearing a Spider baseball cap, and despite a rocky start, they become fast friends and decide to take a selfie together.

University students also will be able to take a selfie with a spider. On March 14 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. University Communications will host a selfie station in Tyler Haynes Commons, where students can photograph themselves with the spider from the video or take photos of a real tarantula. Tarrant, a female greenbottle blue tarantula, is present at all men’s basketball home games. She is native to Venezuela but was bred in captivity in Utah.

Staff and students in the biology department help care for and study Tarrant and two other tarantulas, who also will be present. Jennifer O’Donnell, a lab manager and animal care specialist at UR, confirms spiders serve many valuable purposes. Not only are they an important food source for birds and fish, they also keep pesky insects at bay in gardens. Their venom also is used in research for new medicines. And while most people don’t want to get caught in one, designers have created new technologies and plans for architecture by studying spiderwebs.

“Caring for Tarrant has been a rewarding experience for the biology department, for me and for the University of Richmond community as a whole. Fans have been thrilled to meet her at outreach opportunities, requesting photos and asking wonderful questions about spider biology,” said O’Donnell. “Spiders are fascinating creatures, and we are grateful for the opportunity to keep learning and sharing our love of all spiders.”

The university also will celebrate the day with a baseball game at 3 p.m. against Princeton. Ironically, it was a baseball team comprised of Richmond athletes and city residents that first adopted the name “Spiders,” which later became the school’s official mascot.

Star pitcher Puss Ellyson’s lanky arms and stretching kick confused batters to such an extent that a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter in 1894 used the name of that clever creeping insect to fittingly describe Ellyson. To this day, the University of Richmond is the only school in the country known as the “Spiders.”

Throughout the day, University Communications will share messaging using the hashtags #SaveaSpiderDay and #SpiderPride.

To learn more, check out this fact sheets on spiders.

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Related Campus Units

Biology Department

Manager of Biological Laboratories
Immunology and Human Biology
Animal Care
Tarrant the Tarantula