National Whatever Day: March 14th

Today we have three National Whatever Days to celebrate! On March 14th, we celebrate Learn About Butterflies Day, National Pi Day, and National Save a Spider Day.

Learn About Butterflies Day
In today's world, we typically use butterflies as a metaphor to describe the transformation through the hardest times of your life, and blossoming to be the best you you've ever been once you get through a large trial or once you've grown up and matured into an adult.

A butterfly is a mainly day-flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, which includes the butterflies and moths. The butterfly’s life cycle consists of four parts: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Butterflies have large, often brightly colored wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. Butterflies comprise the true butterflies, the skippers, and the moth-butterflies. All the many other families within the Lepidoptera are referred to as moths. The earliest known butterfly fossils date back to between 40–50 million years ago.

Some butterflies, like the Monarch, will migrate over long distances. Some have evolved symbiotic and parasitic relationships with social insects such as ants. Some species are pests because in their larval stages they can damage domestic crops or trees; however, some species are agents of pollination of some plants, and caterpillars of a few butterflies (e.g., Harvesters) eat harmful insects. Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts.

National Pi Day
I love pie as much as the next person, especially my grandma's homemade apple pie; but today we're talking about Pi, as in 3.14, which is why we celebrate Pi on March 14th (3/14). In 2009, the United States House of Representatives officially supported the designation of Pi Day.

Pi Approximation Day is observed on July 22 (or 22/7 in day/month date format), since the fraction 22⁄7 is a common approximation of π. The earliest known official or large-scale celebration of Pi Day was organized by Larry Shaw in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where Shaw worked as a physicist, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The Exploratorium continues to hold Pi Day celebrations.

National Save a Spider Day
Most people may think it's crazy to save a spider, but spiders are an important part of nature. I do understand not wanting them in the house roaming around, but some people even have spiders as pets!

Looking into more about spiders, Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms. Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica, and have become established in nearly every habitat with the exception of air and sea colonization. As of 2008, at least 43,678 spider species, and 109 families have been recorded by taxonomists; however, there has been confusion within the scientific community as to how all these families should be classified, as evidenced by the over 20 different classifications that have been proposed since 1900.

Their abdomens bear appendages that have been modified into spinnerets that extrude silk from up to six types of silk glands within their abdomen. Spider webs vary widely in size, shape and the amount of sticky thread used. It now appears that the spiral orb web may be one of the earliest forms, and spiders that produce tangled cobwebs are more abundant and diverse than orb-web spiders. Spider-like arachnids with silk-producing spigots appeared in the Devonian period about 386 million years ago, but these animals apparently lacked spinnerets.

A herbivorous species was described in 2008, but all other known species are predators, mostly preying on insects and on other spiders, although a few large species also take birds and lizards. Spiders use a wide range of strategies to capture prey: trapping it in sticky webs, lassoing it with sticky bolas, mimicking the prey to avoid detection, or running it down. Most detect prey mainly by sensing vibrations, but the active hunters have acute vision, and hunters of the genus Portia show signs of intelligence in their choice of tactics and ability to develop new ones. Spiders’ guts are too narrow to take solids, and they liquidize their food by flooding it with digestive enzymes and grinding it with the bases of their pedipalps, the "feelers" on a spider's face, as they do not have true jaws.

Male spiders identify themselves by a variety of complex courtship rituals to avoid being eaten by the females. Males of most species survive a few matings, limited mainly by their short life spans. Females weave silk egg-cases, each of which may contain hundreds of eggs. Females of many species care for their young, for example by carrying them around or by sharing food with them. A minority of species are social, building communal webs that may house anywhere from a few to 50,000 individuals. Social behavior ranges from precarious toleration, as in the widow spiders, to co-operative hunting and food-sharing. Although most spiders live for at most two years, tarantulas and other mygalomorph spiders (spiders with fangs that point straight down and do not cross each other) can live up to 25 years in captivity.

While the venom of a few species is dangerous to humans, scientists are now researching the use of spider venom in medicine and as non-polluting pesticides. Spider silk provides a combination of lightness, strength and elasticity that is superior to that of synthetic materials, and spider silk genes have been inserted into mammals and plants to see if these can be used as silk factories. As a result of their wide range of behaviors, spiders have become common symbols in art and mythology symbolizing various combinations of patience, cruelty and creative powers.

Enjoy nature today by learning about butterflies and saving a spider, and maybe just eat some pie today and look more at Pi after Spring Break!


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