Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mrs. Spider

I noticed a creature parked on my kitchen window sill a few weeks ago. It appeared to be an immobile spider and I thought it was dead. I watched and observed and keenly analyzed the situation. This was not a dead spider.

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.

23 Comments for OSL:

Yaya said...

Great post Julia. I was just talking to Josh the other night about how all of our basic instinct is the same, no matter how small the creature: to reproduce and to support your 'family'.

Great picture too, even though it gave me the heeby jeebies!

Aunt Spicy said...

Seriously, when I started reading this post I thought 'I would just vacuum it up' and by the end of the post I was almost in tears! You have a gift with words!

Suzi said...

Great picture. Which window?

Sara said...

At this point I'm going to assume they are in the house and ya'll will be consuming spiders unaware for a while. That was a lot of babies.

Your gift for storytelling is wonderful. She was a pretty spider. The black ones seem more sinister.

Leigh said...

That was beautiful, Julia! Way to not let your fears rule you!

DayPhoto said...

Way to go! I don't know if I could have been so .... there for the spider. I used to be, very there for them. Then I got bitten by a brown recluse spider's cousin and now sport a hole in my arm. Since that time I have become a spider maganate (spelling) having been biten many times by all sorts of spiders. I become very ill. Sigh.

But I do love your story and the observation and your gift to the spider. I run from them and can never get myself to stay long enough to see what you saw.

Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

Kritter Keeper said...

looks like a garden spider...i am glad you let her live...sometimes the babies gather on our garden spiders backs...we have a lot down at the barn and i try to shoo them out...even the huge ones. last night i saved a grasshopper from daddy cat...just hate killing harmless things but love killing huge horse flies and borer bees!

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Even though it is probably mainly instinct on the spider's part, it is heart-tugging to see a mama spider protecting her young. The scientist and the mama in you combined, I think, to watch and "protect" that spider.

I had to laugh out loud...I was thinking, "They are burning dope fields in California and the smoke must have floated over Julia's place" RIGHT BEFORE your drug-free disclaimer...

Pricilla said...

Ugh! I hate spiders too! We had a huge hatch right outside the trailer. Looked like millions of the little buggers....

Grand Pooba said...

Oh. My. God.

I am just beside myself right now. I can't even imagine the horror I would be going through if baby spiders hatched INSIDE MY HOUSE!

You are one kind woman because that mommy spider would have been dead the minute I'd lay eyes on her.

Kudos to you, I could never do that. I am weak.

MObugs said...

KUDOS to you, for conquering your fear and letting poor Mrs. Spider guard her offspring. I can certainly sympathize with the whole "Spider fear" thing. When I was much younger and first married, each and every spider spotted within the house had to die, I would send my husband on the hunting expedition and I wasn't satisfied until I saw the dead body! Now I am much kinder and less afraid and try to leave them be. The other day I spotted a rolled leaf silked together with very dense silk. I of course became curious and tore the leaf open and a cute little spidey face peaked out at me. I gently peeled back the silk to expose her, and discovered she was a pretty little brown jumping spider guarding eggs. To late after realizing my mistake I had exposed all those yellow eggs and she beat a hasty retreat and I still feel guilty. After all what did I think she was doing...DUH!

Elizabeth Barrette said...

It was gracious of you to let the spider finish her life cycle properly.

For future reference, consider getting a bug vacuum:
http://www.thinkgeek.com/geektoys/science/c1ab/

MsSnarkyPants said...

*shudders* I hope they went outside... I hate spiders ever so much!

karenscarvie said...

Funny that you should speak of a mommy spider. Only a few days ago I was writing in my journal about Rosie, the Manoa spider, Queen of the Upstairs. Your mother should remember her. Rosie's presence spanned those vast years of our childhood in a territory comprising the upstairs hallway, bedrooms, and, of course, the bathroom. It was only in my later years that I realized that spiders "reincarnate." We children undoubtedly confused Rosie One with Rosie Two and Rosie Eleven and all the Rosies in between. I, for one, particularly appreciated the fact that Rosie ran interference for us against those pesky and ubiquitous mosquitoes.

The Old Gray Egg said...

That almost looks like a wolf spider. Ever shined wolf spiders with the kids? After dark some evening go out with a flashlight and shine the spiders in any grass especially around the foundation of the house. You hold the flashlight up on your temple next to your eye and scan the grass eight or ten feet away. Spider eyes will reflect back like a pair of little tiny truck headlights on a dark country road. Then you walk up and verify that the tiny truck is a spider out for an evening hunt. Don't do it on an evening with dew-covered grass, though. The dew drops shine back, too.

Ratty said...

Sympathy for a spider. I love it! I would never be able to kill it either, even though I also hate them. Great story.

Life Ramblings said...

what a beautiful post. i hate spiders and just all creepy crawly bugs.

happy weekend Julia!

Michaela said...

Great post in a creepy, itchy, crawly sort of way! I hope for your sake those little ones went outside!
The spider rule in my house is... if it's in the house it's a fair game of kill or be killed (but anything over a certain size has to be killed by my husband!). I don't touch (most) of them in the basement or garage though... let them eat the bugs that live there.

Alexandra said...

You are very brave. I could not fathom the idea that all of those spiders or even some of them are crawling around my house and knowing I had something to do with it! I have the creepy crawly feeling for you right now!

I stumbled upon a black widow on the side of my house last night... I sprayed him with wasp killer for at least 3 minutes (this was my only weapon within reach). I HATE HATE spiders!

the ungourmet said...

We lived in an apartment once years ago that had a back patio in the trees. It was pretty but always covered with lots of spiders. One day I went out and spied the biggest ball of creepy crawly baby spiders I have ever seen in my life. It was huge! ACK!

These babies aren't too bad. It reminded me of Charlotte's Web.

Doris Sturm said...

What a lovely story, Julia. I'm glad you overcame your phobia and saw it through to the end...all creatures, great and small, deserve to be respected for who they are, as long as they don't insist on living inside with me, but in your case it was only for a brief period of time...shooo shooo...now, go on outside little spiders, because it's a jungle in here ;-) ...(my cat hunts anything that moves, be it ever so little.)

Doris Sturm said...

p.s. do you know what kind of spider that was, Julia? It looked like none I've ever seen before.

Miss Dot said...

What an incredibly beautifully written post! I commend you for your actions (or should I say inactions?).