Chores done!

I got a lot of the menial tedious stuff done today.

✔ New fly stocks set up! This is something I have to do every week to maintain the flow of fly bodies to my hungry spiders.

✔ Backlog of old fly bottles scrubbed and in the autoclave! My least favorite chore. It’s disgusting, my sink fills up with dead flies and huge quantities of pupal shells.

✔ My dirty glassware bucket is completely empty! Huzzah!

✔ I scrubbed up 7 old spider cages, all spider poop and cobwebs fly husks removed with soap and water, and a follow-up wipe-down with alcohol. Now drying overnight.

✔ The big job: repairing and cleaning up the wooden frames the spiders live on. These are just made with 1/4″ dowels and bamboo strips, held together with hot glue (everything in my lab is held together with either or both hot glue and duct tape). Early in this semester, I think I overcompensated with maintaining humidity, and mold grew freely, and the wood warped, popping some of the hot glue joints. Now fixed! Everything was scrubbed down with water and an alcohol wipe.

✔ Washed up a bunch of spider vials.

✔ Ick, scrubbed out the lab sink, which was covered with a thick layer of soggy scraps of chitin. Bonus: while tidying up part of the lab, I found my long lost devil ducky! Maybe future sink scrubbings will be a little happier.

I didn’t transfer spiders to new cages yet–I decided to let the cages and frames dry overnight. No one wants to move into a damp house, after all.

So tomorrow:

  • Remove fly bottles from autoclave & put them away.
  • Move 7 adult spiders from their old filthy cages, move to fresh shiny cages.
  • Scrub old filthy cages, so I can give another 7 spiders a nice clean cage the next day.

Later this week, after they’ve all had a chance to build brand new cobwebs, everyone gets fed. Once everyone is in new homes, it’ll be time for a major lab cleanup — I have old fish tank stuff that just has to go bye-bye.


  1. wajim says

    Okay. Dr. Myers. I considered you rather strange for a long time, as most PhD types in the physical sciences seem to be (unlike us Humanities folks) what with the icky, squishy, mud-wallowing, rock-chomping, ooze-poking, and general not-even-going there nose poking-ness into various unknown yuck and crapulence. Now, spiders. And you enjoy it. What with wingless flies for food (do you cackle with abandon as you yank the wings of these poor creatures? Thought so). By the way, happy Solstice.

  2. outis says

    Hello, happy Bacterium here. Thanks for the description of an insect lab, something new to me.
    But, wood dowels glued together? As a fellow tinkerer, I would suggest assembling them with long thin wood screws, lodged in drilled holes as deep as a screw’s length, and a bit narrower to let the srews bite properly. Your frames will last forever, and you will have the possibility of disassembling or rearranging them as needed.
    Happy winter!

  3. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Given that PZ who also runs a genetics lab for his students, I suspect he has a line of wingless flies that he propagates for his spiders meals.

  4. says

    #1: These are flies born without wings, so I don’t have to go to the trouble of yanking off wings.

    #2: You are way too classy for me. Remember, these are basically jungle gyms for spiders that they’ll cover with cobwebs and poop on. My wooden frames are already fancier than my previous method of chopping up cardboard boxes.

  5. bcw bcw says

    If your flies are born without wings, aren’t they technically “fall and thuds” rather than flies?

    I guess spider’s will spy, flies that don’t fly.

  6. bcw bcw says

    The Cornell biophysics department, downstairs from “LASSP,” the “Laboratory of Applied and Solid State Physics” was known as “LWSTP,” the “Laboratory of Wet and Squishy State Physics.”

  7. Ridana says

    Out of curiosity, how do the spiders take to getting rousted from their familiar homes and plopped into new ones? Are they happy to suddenly have clean surroundings? Is it disorienting to them? Could you tell if it were?

  8. outis says

    #4: I see, thanks. Anyway, it’s good to see a science lab where some of the tools for the job are easily sourced materials, and not the shiny stuff from specialist handlers which always costs an arm and a leg. And both kidneys.

  9. JustaTech says

    Ridana @8: That’s a good question. The best practice with mice, when you clean their cage, is to try and keep their nest (made of the silly crinkle-cut paper you find in fancy gift baskets, mice love it for nest building) because not only is it their safe place, but it’s also where they keep all their scent messages (“pee mail” was the term the behaviorialist used).

    But mice are mammals living in groups (I worked with a breeding colony). I don’t know if PZ’s spiders are the kind that regularly make a new web, or the kind that try to build to last. If you build to last you’d probably be annoyed with a clean cage. If you build new webs all the time you might not care.