Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Arachnids of Summer...

I stepped out on the front porch right around 2:00 am. At some point during most nights I like to get a quick dose of fresh air and look at the stars and/or moon. (Since we are right at the current New Moon's peak, tonight it was just stars.) I had only taken a couple of steps when I noticed something skitter to the wall just below the porch window. I waved my hand past the motion sensor on the porch light to get a better look. What I saw was a clear and definite indication of summer in Savannah. Each year I see tons of these little guys. Well, I guess they are not so little. Would probably be massive to someone who suffers from arachnophobia (fear of spiders). From leg end to leg end, this guy was about 3" wide, and 3 1/2" long. I Google'd around the net for a bit and couldn't find a specific identity for it. My boyfriend suggested a type of wolf spider. From the looking I did I think it might be a southern house spider. Either way, I can tell you they are extremely common. I see them inside the condo and out. Mostly out, thankfully. I did have one encounter last summer when I opened up a drawer in the kitchen to retrieve a spoon, and there was a multi-legged visitor looking back at me from atop the silverware caddy. It did make me jump, but spiders don't bother me too terribly much. As long as any poisonous little arthropods don't munch on me, that is. I had to snap the above picture pretty quickly, as I don't think he particularly wanted his picture taken. As for the roach remains, I'm not sure if that was his dinner or someone else's.

I officially lost what ever fear I possessed of spiders in the early to mid-80's. One day I was in a pet store killing time when I wandered past the area they had the more unusual pets displayed. Various types of lizards, snakes, and the one that caught my eye...spiders. They had a few different species for purchase, but the one that stood out for me was a small black and orange beauty. A baby Mexican Red Leg. Whatever possessed me, I left the store with a new spider and the necessary gear (aquarium, heating elements, live crickets for feeding times, etc.).

I was fascinated by my fragile multi-eyed pet. At the time that I bought it, I think it was one of the more popular spider types for pets. They aren't as moody as others. In other words, handling them wasn't really a problem. They did become harder to find. I was told it was due to stricter importing laws with Mexico. Don't know where all of that stands now.

It took me awhile to reach a comfort level with picking her up (it did turn out to be a female). I built up our pet and owner relationship gradually. Watching it feed was a part of my initial trepidation. It did eat live crickets (which made it extremely economical...25 to 50 cents a dozen, and I could pick them up at the store I purchased the spider from, or any bait shop). I would drop the bugs into the aquarium and then the dance would begin. Danzig (that's what I named her...wasn't ever a real big fan of the band "The Misfits" just seemed to fit) would sit motionless at one end of the glass tank while the crickets meandered around, oblivious to what was to come. I would see the spider at one end and a cricket on the other when WHAM! Danzig would be on top of the bug sucking it dry from the inside out with her fangs. I'm sure you can see how that made me work up gradually to handling her. Once I was able to, it was really no big deal. I would put one hand down and gently stroke her back legs with the other. She would walk right up my fingers onto my hand. I actually broke several friends' severe fear of spiders with her.

Some tarantulas can live 12 to 15 years. Some maybe longer. In the end I only had her for about three years. I was living in Atlanta, Georgia, and with the erratic weather that can happen she just couldn't handle the changes one year. A spider tank needs very specific climate control to make for a happy spider. I was always careful to stay on top of regulating her tank temperature, but I guess her time had come. I was really sad when Danzig died. I know that might sound silly since I'm talking about a tarantula, but a pet is a pet.

Another spider we get here in the south is the Orb Weaver spider. There are all kinds of Orb spiders throughout the world. I took some rather spectacular pictures last year of one that had set up shop over the sidewalk in front of the condo, but I'm having trouble locating them. The photo above is an Orb Weaver spider. They are harmless, spending their time weaving huge webs in places where potential food will fly in. The southern US variety pictured feeds on small insects, but there are other types that eat things as big as frogs or small birds (think hummingbird size). I'm glad those aren't around here! The ones I see are very small, and have the most exquisitely detailed spiny shells, with a variety of color combinations. A beautiful example of art in nature. I have been keeping my eyes peeled for webs, and I hope to get some pictures this year, as well.

1 comment:

  1. I have a phobia that's very specific to daddy longlegs. Only the harvestmen kind, not the longlegged web spinners that live in my house. I wouldn't want one ON me, but I don't mind living with them. But I have a horror of daddy longlegs. I don't know why. Everyone is quick to remind me how harmless they are, but I guess that's the definition of a phobia - an irrational fear. I think it's interesting you had a tarantula as a pet and developed a kind of relationship with it. Here we have a lot of the big spiders with yellow bellies - it looks like they write in their webs. I don't remember their name.