The spider that catches the fly (at my house) – Part 1

black house spider

I am scared of spiders but I am not an arachnophobe…what? Ok perhaps I am a situational arachnophobe?

Ok let me clarify when I see a spider before it sees me I am the picture of calm. I will quickly, quietly and gently remove it if it’s inside and let it go outside. But should it see me first I will be the first to run screaming out the door.

The big Black House Spider (Badumna insignis), which has set up residence beside a beam in the ceiling of the lounge room, is the notable exception. It is a female. I know this because she is quite sedentary; true to the nature of this particular genus. She is happy to stay in the one place and quietly build her web complete with funnel like lair. SO I have seen her. I know she is there. I know she is unlikely to wander. Picture of calm; me and her.

I pondered recently about some ‘droppings’ that I found and cleaned on the lounge room floor and originally speculated that a (very) small bird must have wandered in at some point. However, in cleaning, and finding the self-same droppings the following week, I did rethink my original theorising. On second thought it would have had to have been a ridiculously small bird, but the scat had all the hallmarks of a bird dropping.  What else could have caused it? I looked skyward or at least ceiling-ward and there lay or at least clung the answer. Our resident house spider. She had become SO big her existence was not only evident in her elaborate web but also the digested remains of ‘pests’ she had summarily taken care of! Thankfully she is 4 metres up and as already mentioned, not the type of spider to stray far from her lair so effectively she (and I) was ‘safe’. There is, however, now a space below her that is kept clear of furniture for god forbid if you happen to be sitting there at the time she chose to make a deposit (mind you, you would be blissfully unaware).

Her offspring, however, are a totally different matter. I do keep a loose eye on her and as a result spied the appearance of numerous tiny black dots amongst her ever expanding silken spun habitat. Vagueness is something I am known for so it took some time for the penny to drop and for me to notice that these dots weren’t inanimate. There was a barely perceptible movement of traffic within the web. Good lord she’d found a mate or at least he had found her! And why wouldn’t she in this perfect world she has inhabited. Plenty of food (thanks to a lack of fly screens and the odd, escaped, baby stick insect) and a permanent and stable shelter. Perfect for starting a family.

At this point I did need to draw a line in the sand. Baby house spiders eventually disperse and there was no way of keeping track of the hundreds of them…they were going to see me first at some point! SO out came the vacuum and the young were promptly sucked up and let loose in the compost. Down to survival of the fittest now for them.

So if I can handle the spider living on my ceiling what is the basis for this irrational fear? Certainly not my childhood or perhaps. As I was growing up spiders (Huntsman’s at least) were welcome and encouraged to take up residence in the house for their ‘pest’ hunting capabilities and thus keeping the house free of ‘other vermin’. Not that I was particularly enamoured with this situation for as their name suggests Huntsman’s hunt. The do not quietly lie in wait in a web like my girl on the ceiling but they actively seek out and track down their prey. So they get out and about…they often saw me first!

So perhaps it is a case of sensitisation and habituation that has led to this seemingly opposable response to spiders depending upon the situation.

So why the sudden writing about spiders and fear. I opened my car the other day after weeks of it sitting idle. There on my seat lay the exoskeleton of a Huntsman. Most likely from the Holconia group; a group of Huntsman known to like taking up residence in cars. Not a dried up dead huntsman but the remains of the exoskeleton shed as part of the process of growth; it wasn’t a small exoskeleton.

I now enter the car with trepidation. I am unlikely to drive it at night when he or she will be most active. There is a distinct possibility that there is a spider in this car somewhere. Bigger than the evidence of the husk of its former self left behind. I sincerely hope there aren’t two because if there is anything more frightening to me than a huntsman that sees me first is one that is defending her eggs too – their fangs are enormous. I know, I once disturbed a Hunts(wo)man guarding her egg sack.  Fortunately there were no witnesses to my reaction but I feel almost certain that it would have been a blur that they saw as I leapt back.

Borderline anxiety lurking in the background. For the possibility of it seeing me before I see it. I can already feel the tingle that will shoot up the nerves in my arms as I feel the almost instantaneous preparation of my body for flight (not fight). So if you see me running blindly from my car…..

…and it seems that Simon of Simon’s Cat fame has the same phobia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19jaOSNibkU

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