Monday, October 19, 2009

Along Came a Spider

I have fought a grizzly bear,

Tracked a cobra to its lair,

Killed a crocodile who dared to cross my path;
But the thing I really dread

When I've just got out of bed

Is to find that there's a spider in the bath...

~Michael Flanders and Donald Swann: Driven to It - By the Spider in the Bath

I have always enjoyed my encounters with tarantulas in New Mexico. They're big, easy to see, furry, and they don't usually move too fast. Well, there was that one guy that chased me out onto a road, but that only happened once. Now that I think about it, that is probably the reason why all the shoes (and feet) you see in these photos belong to my brave sister, Auntie Bucksnort.

I recently read somewhere that you are always within three feet of a spider. Wow, that one kind of stayed with me (and had me looking over my shoulder, not to mention under my pillow), and I set out to see if I could find any support for the statement. Here are some of the facts about spiders that I found along the way:

The tarantula isn't poisonous. It's bite is usually no worse than a bee sting.

A spider's silk is made of protein. The spider will eat the used silk of an old web before spinning a new one.

A spider is printed on the American one-dollar bill. You'll have to read Seven Fun Facts About Spiders to find out exactly where.

It is estimated that up to one million spiders live in/on an acre of land, and in the tropics, this number might approach 3 million.

Hummingbirds use the silk from spider webs to weave together their nests.

According to Spiders of the Arid Southwest, the areas encompassed by New Mexico, West Texas, and Arizona have over 1000 species of spiders, the most dangerous to humans being the black widows, brown widows, and violin spiders. (Note: At least I think that's what they said--their writers need to undergo some sort of clarification training. I felt that I was going in circles trying to figure out which areas they were talking about and which spiders were where, etc. I'm pretty sure the authors were researchers first and writers second. No disrespect intended, but I was having a hard time wading through the paragraphs, and a little judicious editing would help make this a great resource for the rest of us).

About that statement that there is always a spider within a yard of where you are--according to Spider Myths author Rod Crawford of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle, this myth probably came about because of arachnologist Norman Platnick's unguarded statement that "Wherever you sit as you read these lines, a spider is probably no more than a few yards away." You can read more of what Crawford has to say here.

About the photos:
The first two were taken by me, and the third was taken by Auntie Bucksnort. All have appeared on this blog before (as linked).
Top: Tarantula on the road to Tucumcari
Middle: The same spider, patting Bucksnort's brave shoe
Bottom: Bathroom door guard tarantula at Bottomless Lakes Campground



JC said...

Well, thank you for starting my Monday talking about spiders.

And, there was one in my bath tub over the weekend. One of the long legged ones ... That kind I don't like. The big brown ones .. no problem ..

I live in the woods. Spiders love it here. I let them be but if they are in my house ... I try to put them outside but sometimes I use the old shoe.

Postcards from Wildwood said...

Oh good grief! And to think I was nervous of a rather large British spider a couple of days ago. I cannot imagine how I would cope if I found one of your spiders in my house!

charlotte g said...

Wow. Music, too? I had to keep reading because this was one of my favorite pieces. I am awed.

Spiders don't bother me so much, despite the fact I was bitten on my buttcheek years ago. When my sons were growing up, the garden boy the front porch had generations of black widdows, prominently visible in the corner. They stayed in their webs and ate many, many bugs.

I interviewed the doctor who wrote the treatment chapter for spider bites in the Physician's Reference, and he told me brown recluse get the rap for bites from others frequently. BTW, not all brown recluses have the violin. some are plain. One of the most poisonous, he said, is the Orb spider, that brightly colored, very large spider on the vary large web usually stretched between bushes or trees. Very visible, so not many victims. ehhh--you've set me off. But I loved the visit--see you later.

Ishtar said...

Now that spider is way too big for me! I saw one this morning which was about the tenth of its size, but that was enough to make me change my path! :-)

Beth said...

Really interesting post, Clair, but I had trouble concentrating on the reading. There's something about that last photo of the tarantula moving towards the shoe that unhinges me. I keep wanting to move that shoe.

Dewdrop said...


Quiet Paths said...

This is a really interesting read! I do not have a great fear of spiders but I remove them from the house. I smiled about you being chased out into the road....

Della said...

That was a lot of new and interesting things about spiders for me. Here we only have small ones.