With some hee ha and yahooey, it’s time to talk about arachnids now. I find them as fascinating as the twinkle of rotating gaseous bodies in outer space. I don’t know that much about spiders either, but I’m trying to learn. Did you know that the females are good as protective mothers, if not as dedicated wives? Spiders in general seem to be a smart bunch as much as any arachnids can expect to be and appreciation for them is long overdue.
I read in “The Life of the Spider” by John Crompton, that a man brought one back on a boat from South America, and it was so large he put a collar around its neck and walked it on deck like a dog. I assume the ship was a freighter and not the Love Boat. Another man on a bus, was described as holding a bouquet of flowers when he saw a crab spider among the petals. He was seen to have picked it up and dropped it into his mouth. Mmm, lunch. Though the crab spider is not poisonous to humans, apparently it is more so to bugs than any other spider we would consider apropos – according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
All kidding aside, I have to draw the line at eating spiders. Any of you die-hard Red Dwarf fans out there (I HOPE Elkridge has some) must have caught the episode where our favorite Dave Lister character is forced to eat a live tarantula (a fake one in his mouth of course). It takes a fabulous actor like Craig Charles to even fake the eating process. I know that they toast them up in the Philippines and eat them, but I still think it’s gross beyond comprehension and I, for one, would rather starve to death.
So, there are 40,700 species worldwide and hundreds in Maryland, but let’s narrow it down to Elkridge spiders. They have a longer history in this town than the town itself has history.
Keep in mind that they play a vital and critical role in the environment by controlling insect pests. Besides different sizes and colors, some are blind while others can see you coming well before you spot them. I described several instances of encounters in a previous blog about living on Old Lawyers Hill Road. Some of these stories bear a brief repeating.
The Old Gardener:
While I was asleep on my back in my bed, I was suddenly-like given an explicit warning to open my eyes and to sit immediately straight up. Where the warning came from I don’t know, but I like to think that God didn’t want to hear a terrifying earful from me, so He just relayed quick instructions. After quickly sitting up, I looked behind me and next to my pillow facing towards where my head had been was a huge yellow and black garden orb weaver.
Before I called for help, I remember thinking that it might have had a few years on it because it was so huge. An orb weaver can get a leg span of up to 2.5 inches.
But calling out only scared it, causing it to sprint up the pillow and then over the bed side. My sister, down the hall, heard me and did a sprint herself, and made mincemeat of it with her shoe. After reading about spiders, it was the type that was blind and naturally responds to vibrations and noise. That’s why it could get so close to me in the first place, because I had been asleep. Looking back on that incident, I wish I’d have had the presence of mind to have shut up, capture it in a jar, and return it outdoors. Sad lesson.
The Volley Ball Net:
Another incident was the one I almost walked into head first inside of what used to be our dining room in Edgewood Cottage, when I was trying to salvage whatever I could before the house was torn down.
This type of arachnid was either a large Parasteatoda tepidariorum or, most likely, an Araneus marmoreus. It was a reddish brown with leg mottling and made a web the size of a volley ball net from one wall across the room to the next. Natural light was coming from its back so it faded out of focus.
When I went towards the window, my eyes suddenly refocused and I saw the spider in the center of its web just in time to avoid a nose to nose encounter.
The earliest that I remember was when a black one fell on my shoulder from the ceiling as I was leaving for school. It might have been a funnel weaver or the black Tigrosa wolf.
After begging my mother to get it off me, she told me I could brush it off myself. Some defense. The spider didn’t want to be on me either because it fell off to the floor on its own accord and ran under some newspapers.
And this is not to even mention the time a common brown one fell off the ceiling onto my cereal!
Who Goes There?
At the EHS, of course, I have already written about the big black one, which was most likely a Tigrosa wolf species that got in when the guys were painting the house, or came up from the cellar. I first spotted what I thought was it outdoors in a triangular web in the corner of the back window. I watched it awhile. But maybe what I might have been seeing was a different type of spider. I don’t know. Anyway it must have seen me staring at it because it darted out suddenly towards me as if to either say hello or to scare the you-know-what out of me. Good thing there was a pane of glass between us. I thought it acted like it a funnel weaver, which will run out at for a bug if you disturb their nest (I’ve been a big bug to many). These are also known as a “wandering spider.” But this one was larger, like the wolf species.
So when the painters left the doors open, something big and black came on in and built a web at the side of the bathroom door entrance. Since it blocked my entrance to the john, I plugged up the end of a vacuum hose with a piece of cloth and finagled it onto the cloth in order to transport the cloth to the toilet. But the spider didn’t want to take the plunge.
Finally it shook free, but it took two flushes to get the thing down. Then I flushed it again for good measure.
Free Rental Condos:
There’s no such thing as a homeless spider even if they don’t have webs. When I’m not at the Elkridge Heritage Society doing my thing, spiders take over. These wee ones have squatters rights and build condos in the kitchen sink.
The itsy-bitsy, teensy weensy jumping spiders of the Salticidae family, don’t make webs. They come in different sizes and some, who are just a tad larger, look like lobsters. The teensy ones I am referring to look like a cross between a short, squat dog and an owl. If these jumpers have black and white stripes, they are also known as Zebra spiders. They are all called the Casanovas of the arachnids because they are friendly, colorful, and — in order to attract the ladies — the males “sing and dance.” With huge eyes, their heads are bigger than their bodies, and their playful stance is like a dog wearing “mary-janes,” and anticipating you throwing something. I have played music and watched one react to it by swaying its little body while looking at me with those big eyes. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought it was flirting.
They also like playing hide and go seek around your fingers. There is nothing as pleasant a pastime as communing with nature.
Another Volley Ball Net:
The latest arachnid adventure was leaving at night after an EHS meeting, when I spotted a very large reddish brown mottled Araneus marmoreus in a gigantic web that must have reached up to the upper window level all the way down to the bottom side garden off the porch steps. The lights from the rooftop security lamp lit up parts of the web in a dramatic display with the spider dangling on side strands.
To exit down the porch steps we all had to pass next to it and there was no telling how wide or if the supporting strands might have crossed the steps. I think probably the web was there during the day too, and I probably had passed it many times going outside to my car, which was parked not too distantly from it with the windows rolled down.
But before Dave with a broom even approached it to knock it down, the spider knew he was coming and ran up the web supposedly out of reach. Dave whacked it down anyway and tore down the web. But I’m sure the spider is undaunted and the web is probably back up. If I find that’s true, the spider will deserve to be given a name.
Now a light bulb is blinking on — maybe I will name it “Dave.”
Hee ha and yahooey.
I’m sure others have some stories to share and I, for one, would like to hear from you.