Story of the Month Spring n’ Spiders


It’s spring!  In addition to warming weather, tempestuous storms, and the return of green to the world around us spring also means…bugs…

As a rule I have no distaste for insects, bugs, or mollusks that we share our world with, and this can be surprising as some of the encounters I’ve had would make you think otherwise!  As story of the month this month I’ll share one of my most memorable encounters with the various domestic invertebrates found in the southern United States:

Spring n’ Spiders

I inherited a garage room as a senior in high school after a brown recluse spider was found stuck to a glue trap and my mom refused to sleep there any longer.  As it was the biggest room in the house (with an outside door!) I didn’t hesitate to take it, but soon found the trapped spider had friends…hundreds of them…

Creepy Spider

At first seeing one of them would send me fleeing the room and sleeping on the couch in a different room.  After a while I got used to them.  Taking them out casually with a length of cedar pole or a riding crop (WHACK it’d cut them right in half…) I got from an art teacher.

One day, after finding a few of the glue traps I set so packed with the venomous little critters it had noticeable weight, I enlisted my friend Mike to come over, rip the room apart, open all the cupboards and closets, and bug bomb it into oblivion. So we did.  Took the place apart, including the couch, cushions, bed, closet, the whole place.

Lit the fuse (literally…we didn’t know we were supposed to turn off the gas…the water heater was in there and we could have truly declared inquisitorial exterminatus on that end of the house…) and left.  We came back after the allotted time and put everything back together.  We put a pizza in the oven and turned on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and flipped through a sword catalog for fun.

Sitting there, chilling, I looked down and saw one of the little bastards sitting right in the middle of my chest.  Normally pretty stoic I declared “Sunnuva bitch there’s one of em on me!” trampolined it off my shirt and into the floor, stomping it with my boot and grinding it across the carpet into shreds.  Mike joined the melee by taking both cans of wasp spray we had and spraying its dismembered body with them like a gunslinger.  We created possibly the deadest spider in the history of dead spiders…

Since then the brown recluse infestation has subsided.  It went from hundreds of them at all stages of maturity, creeping from closets, out from under furniture (and in one disturbing encounter dozens rappelling down webs from the ceiling) to…none…  At first I was mystified before I found a curio I bought had an infestation of its own…of cellar spiders.  These harmless little rascals spin irregular webs under furniture and in corners…the perfect places to ensnare brown recluses.  They did the job chemicals and smack ’em sticks couldn’t.  And I happily traded one infestation for another.

Despite these encounters I still have no arachnophobia (despite creepy spider dreams occasionally) and even released a captured brown recluse by a tree outside my previous place of employment (I figured what’s one more spineless, cantankerous, creeper around there…) and even had a “pet” spider outside my house for a while.  It goes to show nature might be creepy, and even dangerous, but it’s never to be hated or feared!

Enjoy the first few days of spring!  There are more such “nature” encounters coming soon!

See more stories in our Story of the Month section!

Off the Top of My Head #5: Winning Hearts and Minds with Goldie the Black and Yellow Garden Spider

Off The Top of My Head

 I once had a serious brown recluse infestation.  A flat, cardboard glue trap designed to ensure that our cat, Sweetie, had beaten her flea problem, caught one giant brown recluse.  Afterward more traps caught dozens, sometimes HUNDREDS more, of all sizes all over the room.  Needless to say it caused nightmares and paranoia, but, believe it or not, after a while I got used to them.  I’d sit in the floor, playing guitar or drawing, and see one creep by.  I’d smash the life out of it, and then go right back to business as usual.  I have since traded my brown recluse infestation with a cellar spider infestation.  They EAT brown recluses but are harmless to people so I say it’s a fair, natural, “circle of life” kind of trade.

Spiders creep people out.  Often the reasons for this are “they have too many legs,” or “too many eyes,” or “they’re dangerous.”  Mostly I think it’s because they’re an unseen threat, we usually only notice them if something is wrong, like we’re bitten or we see them in an unusual are like a bedroom or kitchen.  I think of it this way: I had hundreds of brown recluses stuck to glue traps.  I only ever saw 20 or so running loose alive.  As far as I know I was never bitten and who knows how many were actually roaming around that I DIDN’T see and weren’t in the traps.  So maybe my infestation was good for me, it got me accustomed to them and taught me a bit about fear.

It gave me a new spider policy: I bring them no harm, no matter how dangerous they may be, so long as they’re outside.  I’ve even released a brown recluse that a friend asked me to identify, she brought him to me in a cup  and I felt if I killed her it would feel like executing a prisoner of war…somehow just wrong…  If they are inside I typically bring them no harm if they are harmless.  Woe to the poor brown recluse that staggers through my defenses into my room now though…dangerous ones in my space I treat like invaders…

But most people hate spiders, even those outside.  During my vacation the first week of August I left my home and came across her:

Yellow and Black Spider

She built her web at the end of our carport and I immediately recognized her as a gold and black, or yellow and black, garden spider.  I knew she was harmless and her web was so impressive I implored everyone in the house to let her be.  Everyone wholeheartedly agreed and, despite the fact that she was initially considered creepy by some, she has grown on us.  She was named “Goldie” and we put up a sign to warn package delivery services to not destroy her web or bring her any harm.

Goldie the female Yellow and Black Spider.

Every morning we check her web, see if she’s caught any food (it’s usually in tatters from the moths and other insects she’s skewered) and every now and then she’s draining some poor meal (I still feel for the eaten bugs…what a way to go..)

Goldie Snack
That was a WASP. She had quite a meal there…

Goldie has become kind of an outside pet.  We are pleased to see she’s eating well (I’ve tried to offer up some superworms which unfortunately flew straight through her web), we cheered when she built not one but TWO massive egg sacs, but we lament that, despite the safety of her location from birds, she will not likely find a mate in the carport…

Egg Sac
Goldie’s first egg sac
Egg Sac
Goldie’s second egg sac

Goldie the spider changed the hearts and minds of many around here who feared or disliked spiders.  The fear of spiders is largely irrational; as are most fears.  Remember a world without spiders is a world full of cockroaches, moths, and flies!  And I for one am much happier with these lovely little killers out there.

Goldie Side

Goldie Under

Here’s a video of Goldie spinning her web.  Forgive the raw version of it I took it in a rush THIS morning and haven’t had time to edit it yet.  I had never before seen her doing this and was pretty excited to get it on video at all!