Make no mistaken assumption in regard to my relationship with arachnids. I do NOT like spiders. They creep me out. Like, give me the shivers kind of spider fearing, get a vacuum suck them up fearing, get the broom and sweep them away fearing, a controlled but somewhat irrational fear.
However, I tried to maintain my impartial scientific composure about this particular spider and I took no rash measures. This spider did not look like it was threatening me. I think it was talking to me subliminally. “Let me be…” it was singing in a calm and serene voice. Now I can hear some of you thinking I am smoking something green or I am high on goof balls or I am sniffing my kids glue sticks but I swear it is not true! You know who you are… stop thinking bad thoughts!
It (the spider) was not moving and seemed to be stationed over a white linear container of some kind. I had my suspicions about what was really going on, but put it all in the back of my mind. I am a biologist after all and try not to let primal fears over take my curiosity and scientific mind. I must remain objective sometimes.
The question remained. What was this spider doing? This dog-like faithfulness to the window sill continued for several weeks. I opened the window every evening to let fresh air in the house after the hot summer days. I closed the window every morning to trap the cool air inside. And the spider remained there, perched, clinging, hovering. She even lost one leg that got caught by someone's injudicious closing of the window, but still she was not going anywhere.
Ration and intuition being what it is, I knew that this was not just any spider. This was a mom spider dedicated to her unborn babies. The devoted care and guardianship she showed during their gestation was admirable to me, and I am a confirmed spider hater. But putting aside my prejudices I let nature be nature and I watched and waited.
Then one day it happened.
From several feet away I could tell something was different. I closely inspected the site that Mrs. Spider had been guarding so assiduously and there they were. Tiny little spiders surrounded her, clinging to the window sill. Creamy white mini-me's, only amounting to a few millimeters in size, her offspring were awake. They were miniature versions of herself. As they hatched from their cocoon they circled around mom and waited.
For several days the babies just stuck close to mom. I continued to open and close the window and Mrs. Spider and her offspring stayed very still. A few babies ventured out further away from the radius of mom’s protection and could be found down the window sill. I would blow air on them to make sure they were alive and to see if I could influence them to go out the window. It made no difference. They clung tenaciously to their spot de jour.
Then about four days after they were born, they all disappeared. It was like the magic words were spoken or Mrs. Spider gave them all the signal and they were gone, just like that. I am hoping that means out the window.
The arachnophobe in me quells at the thought of all those spiders crawling around my house… But I could not muster the thought of demolishing this mom spider who was beautifully doing what she was meant to do. The simplest explanation is that my conscience would not let me kill her. And I have a feeling that mom spider died shortly after her babies fledged. Her last efforts in life were to ensure the survival of her babies. What mom can't understand that.
I hope the little ones are eating bugs somewhere outside. Or at least that is the thought with which I comfort myself. But to appreciate that with which you are uncomfortable is a challenge unto it self which we all need to find on occasion.
One little baby spider step at a time.