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Spiderwoman spreads the word about arachnids

Crawling creatures with eight legs and many eyes send chills down many spines.

But, not Merri Warden's. Spiders are her friends.

"Ever since I was a child, I've been fascinated with spiders," she said. "I once took some pictures of some spider webs that caught a man's attention. He said I needed to do something."

"He said, 'I've planted the seeds, now you grow the plant,'" she continued.

Warden's alter ego, the "spiderwoman," was born.

Through the Ohio University Natural Wonders program she coordinates, Warden visits schools throughout the county in a spider costume with some of her arachnid friends. Wednesday, she paid a visit to Burlington Elementary, Dawson-Bryant Elementary, and home-schooled children at Briggs Lawrence Public Library, Southern Branch.

Dr. Robert Culp, a chemistry lecturer at Ohio University Southern also known as "Mr. Wizard," said some people's fears of spiders are unfounded.

"When some people see a spider, their first instinct is to stop on it and kill it," he said. "Spiders are really our friends. They eat other pests, and most of them are basically harmless."

Teachers and others who work with the children said Warden's presentation garnered rave reviews.

"They loved her," said Stacy Mathes, a second grade teacher at Burlington Elementary. "She was wonderful, and the children were really excited."

"I'm an adult, and I can't say that I've experienced something like this," Susan Montgomery, a librarian assistant at Briggs-Lawrence Public Library Southern Branch. "I'm very excited because I work with two groups of children: one from South Point and one from Ironton. This is the first time both of my classes will get to be together."

"I'm grateful that they came," Beth Evans, a second grade teacher at Dawson-Bryant said. "These are really big assets in our community that we don't tap into enough."

Kelsey Grove, a first grader at Dawson-Bryant Elementary, said she would like to keep a spider as a pet.

"I think they're really cool because they have eight legs," she said. "I want a little baby one. I found one once, but I brought in the house, and my mom screamed."