Spider Myths of Nantucket


Do you know someone who was bitten by a brown recluse on Nantucket?  Have you ever wondered if you should exercise an extra 15 minutes to burn off the calories from eating eight spiders every year while you sleep?  Throughout the year we get a plethora of spider questions and unfortunately, many are based on misinformation!

By far the biggest number of questions and comments concern the ever elusive brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa).  It is especially elusive here on Nantucket because, as far as we know, it does not live here.  There has never been a specimen recorded here and we have a collection of over 6,000 spiders from eight years of searching.  In fact, brown recluse are not even found in the Northeast.  They range from the Midwest east to Tennessee and north into Ohio.  There is always a chance a traveler might bring one accidentally in luggage, but it is super unlikely.  Many of the necrotic wounds that people blame on brown recluse are really infections from a Streptococcus bacteria.  These infections can start in even the tiniest of wounds and both the infection and an actual brown recluse bite are treated with antibiotics.  The only way to easily know if a wound is from a brown recluse is if a person catches the spider in the act of biting him or her and gets the specimen identified by a trained arachnologist.  Doctors are smart, but they do not always have all the information!


A brown recluse. Picture from Wikipedia

There is a very common myth that we eat eight spiders a year while asleep.  Something about the spiders searching for water and unknowingly walking into our mouths (assuming our snoring does not scare them away first).  There is no evidence for this at all.  We definitely eat a lot of little insects that may come in on lettuce and vegetables or they may accidentally fly into our mouth while bicycling.  Some of these creatures are probably spiders but we are not meeting our spider dietary needs while sleeping.

For more information, visit Richard Vetter’s website.  He has done a lot of work on brown recluse spiders and has some excellent papers available.  Also, a list of all the spider species on Nantucket is at our website.  We always like getting questions about spiders so please feel free to contact us!

Aquarium Release Day

Saturday, September 6th, 10 AM – 1 PM

Time for the Aquarium animals to go back home!

This is the last day that the Aquarium is open and it is time for all of the animals to return to their winter homes. Drop into the Aquarium between 10AM and 1PM to help us release animals and begin the winterizing process for the tanks. This is a great way to see a whole new side of the Aquarium.

release day

Fall Hours

Fall Hours Start Tuesday, September 2nd
**Properties Closed Labor Day**

Tuesday, September 2nd – Friday, September 5th, 9 AM-12 PM
Saturday, September 6th, Release Day, 10 AM-1 PM

Natural Science Museum
Closes Saturday, August 30th

Historic Mitchell House
Call for hours after August 30th: 508.228.2896

Vestal Street Observatory
Last Tour Saturday, August 30th, 1 PM

Loines Observatory
September & October: Every Friday 8:30-10 PM
(Weather Permitting)

prop photo copy


MMA Wins NEMA Award for Web Design

MMA is pleased to announce that it has won second place in the New England Museum Association’s Annual Publications Awards for its new website. The project manager was then Education Director Whitney Morris and the Outside Designer was Mary Novissimo, of Novation Media.

According to NEMA, the “Awards Program . . . recognizes excellence in design, production, and effective communication in all aspects of museum publishing. Entries are judged by a panel experienced in publication, design, marketing and communications. Awards are given to those entries which most effectively present their message to the intended audience.

This year, there were 168 publications from 57 museums entered in 20 different categories. The judges were incredibly impressed with the high quality of design from this year’s entries. Competition winners will be recognized and exhibited at the 96th Annual NEMA Conference in Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts November 19-21, 2014.”

MMA is excited and grateful to be honored with this award. Countless hours went into the new design with many meetings and discussions with staff, ably led by Whitney Morris who distilled all of the departmental information, conducted research into successful websites, and brought her own experiences at MMA and with other organizations to the table to create a beautiful and dynamic website that represents well the MMA and all that it has to offer. Mary Novissimo was the key to translating all of this information and making it come to life as the MMA’s new website. MMA is grateful to both of them and all of the staff for their hard work, as well as NEMA for this award. Thank you!



Upcoming Astronomy Films & Lectures

Nostalgia-for-The-Light Film Screening: Nostalgia for the Light
Tuesday, August 12th, 7 PM



Lecture: Astronomy REU Student Research Projects (Part 1)
Thursday, August 14th, 7 PM

Lecture: Astronomy REU Student Research Projects (Part 2)
Tuesday, August 19th, 7 PM

Lecture: Alone in the Universe
by Dr. Howard Smith
Thursday, August 21st, 7 PM

City-Dark-image Film Screening: The City Dark: A Search for Night on a Planet that Never Sleeps
Tuesday, August 26th, 7 PM


*All events are located at 33 Washington Street and are free admission.