ENVIRONMENT

SpiderFest crawls to Antelope Island Saturday

Jul 28, 2023, 10:30 PM

ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK, Utah — Antelope Island State Park is well known for its bison even though it’s called Antelope Island.

Something else will take center stage Saturday and it will give many people that creepy crawly feeling.

Benrita Betrus has heard about them before.

She has even seen them in magazines, on television, and at the movies.

When she and her family finally visited Utah this week, seeing the bison out at Antelope Island State Park was high on their list.

“My husband was like we got to go see those,” she said. “This is my first time to see them in real life. Yeah.”

She never knew how big they were in person.

“Never. Never in my life,” she said with a laugh.

However, when we asked her if she was also interested in seeing something a little smaller on the island, she shrugged her nose and declined.

“No, I don’t like spiders,” she said.

It’s a good thing she’s not looking for them because they’re everywhere.

“Spiders this time of year are the most visible and the most abundant that people will see,” said Wendy Wilson, who is the assistant manager at Antelope Island State Park.

Wilson said there appears to be more of them, or at least they’re more visible this year, because water levels at the Great Salt Lake are higher.

This means the water is closer to the island, which brings the bring flies spiders feed on close as well.

Although she likes spiders, Wilson also understands many people get creeped out by them.

“Honestly, they can be creepy, right? They’ve got these eight little legs and they move kind of fast and they seem like they’re sometimes chasing after us,” Wilson said.

That’s also why Antelope Island State Park hosts the annual SpiderFest.

It’s to educate people about spiders and let visitors know these web slingers are needed.

“They are an important part of the ecosystem and that’s one of the messages we want to share at SpiderFest. We want to have a lot of fun, of course, but also to dispel some myths about spiders,” Wilson said.

The biggest myth is that the spiders on the island are dangerous.

“The spiders that are out here are western spotter orb weavers. Orb weavers in general are not a spider of concern,” Wilson explained. “They have venom, but it’s not a type of venom that is medically concerning to us humans.”

However, those spiders can grow to be pretty big, which only adds to the arachnophobia.

Chances are if you get close to one, they’ll go away.

“They are actually really shy, these spiders in particular,” Wilson said.

Shy or not, Betrus wants nothing to do with them.

It might be why she got back to her minivan as fast as her two legs could take her.

“The small ones, yes, I can deal with, but the big ones, no,” Betrus said with a laugh.

SpiderFest is a one-day event at Antelope Island State Park on July 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park marina.

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SpiderFest crawls to Antelope Island Saturday