‘Gems of the Prairie: A Night with Spiders,’ set for Saturday at Topeka Zoo

Dustin Wilgers believes spiders are largely misunderstood. That’s why the McPherson College associate professor of biology is bringing the creatures back Saturday to Topeka’s Gage Park.


“This is an interactive hands-on activity that will teach kids about spider biology, the adaptations spiders have to help them be active and thrive during the night, and the importance of their conservation,” Wilgers, a native of Wichita, said in a recent email. “I will have live spiders, tarantulas, for the attendees to look at and even handle, if they would like to.”

The event, “Gems of the Prairie: A Night with Spiders,” is free and open to the public and begins at 8 p.m. outside of the Topeka Zoo.

Wilgers said he has worked with spiders for more than eight years and has conducted numerous research projects studying their behavior, physiology and conservation that has resulted in several published reports.

“My main focus has been on understanding the communication system of wolf spiders by investigating the function of their courtship signals,” he said.

Wilgers said he’s encouraging anyone who comes to the presentation to bring a flashlight or headlamp and that any spiders that are caught will also be released. He said his educational presentations are funded from the “Chickadee Checkoff” program of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.