Beneficial Spiders or Alien invasion?

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This year we have had a myriad of unusual spider and many I had never seen here before, or anywhere else for that matter. I specifically recall one incident this past summer where we were working on tearing down the old turkey run to move it up to it’s new location. Where it sat in its old location, it was only 2 steps down off of the upper deck. I was standing on the top step surveying the progress for a minute when I innocently put my hand down on the top of the newel post of the railing to lean and instantly felt my hand retract from a sharp pain. I looked down to discover a small Spiny Orb Weaver. They have a hard spiny abdomen and on of the spines pierced the tender skin on the palm of my hand. Now these spiders I had seen before, but never anywhere but our property. So I worried that perhaps there was some sort of protective venom on the spines that might cause a reaction. I whimpered for a little while about my wound, which no one took particularly seriously…thanks guys, and within an hour the pain went away entirely and the tiny hole was completely imperceptible by the next morning. These little orb spiders are everywhere in September of most years. They suspend webs from every available surface, natural or manmade. It is impossible to walk out of the house and go anywhere on the property without removing several of these webs from your path and frequently you have to pick one of these little guys out of you hair because you didn’t see the web in time to duck it. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a mortal fear of spiders and in fact I am allergic to the venom in their bites the way a lot of people have a reaction to bee stings but not to an anaphylactic level. Bites on my arms or legs will frequently swell to the size of a salad place and get hot and red and itch like the worst poison ivy you have ever had. So I avoid them whenever possible, but the little guys are very non aggressive, so the most attention I usually pay to them is to remove their webs from my path and move on, but you would be surprised how many of them have replaced their webs within an hour or so, they are quite industrious.

FishingSpider(RH)The one type of spider that we have here that are aggressive are the fishing spiders. I’ve seem these spiders before, but I have never seen them reach the size that they do here. I have seen ones here that including legs were larger the size of the palm surface of my hand with abdomens the size of a small lime. You couldn’t see that, but I just shuddered thinking about that one. These spiders, when disturbed, will take a defensive stance with front legs raised and lunge at you. Yup, there’s another shudder. They don’t seem to live in any kind of web, but instead make their homes in dark damp covered places, coincidentally like the inside of the turkey’s old mini barn. When we tore that down we removed 20 or more of these spiders from in and around the structure. Nothing like FishingSpiderBabies(RH)big momma I described before though, these were scarcely larger than the lid of a mason jar. But it’s no wonder why the turkeys never wanted to be shut in at night, even when it snowed. And worse yet, a while back, we lost a female turkey very suddenly to what I said even then I thought might have been a reaction to a spider bite. Well, mini barn demolished and burnt, problem resolved. Creepy giant spiders displaced…

But even with all of that, I didn’t start considering the possibility of an alien invasion until yesterday when I was bringing the last of my house plants in for the winter because of the very strong possibility of frost last night. It is very common to carry concealed spiders in on the house OrbSpider2(RH)plants. When they emerge to find a place to make a web and hunt because their little bodies absorbed the heat from the house, we simply usher them outside to fend for themselves. Unless they are in the bedroom…there’s another shudder. Ones that invade my sleeping space do not get a reprieve, that is a strict death sentence. One too many in the past has escaped the wrath on my husband’s bedroom slipper…and I hate sleeping on the couch. But I digress… I quickly inspected the bottom of the plant pot that I was about to grab and something caught my eye. I went in for a closer look. All at once my arms retracted close, my head shrunk into my shoulders and I turn quickly to retreat to the safely of the house all the while saying “Eww, eww, eww, eww.” Tim of course inquired what I had found, because like any 6 year old boy, he was hoping for something cool and gross that he could poke with a stick. I mustered all of the anti-spider courage I could find and took him out to show him OrbSpider(RH)what I had discovered. “Cooool,” he says. What we were looking at, me at a slightly larger distance that my husband, was an orange ball, approximately the size of a small kumquat, with legs that were almost transparent and had black stripes. The orange ball had a marbling on it that was actually kind of pretty. That was hard for me to admit. Tim trotter off to find a stick to poke it with. I jest, the stick was actually to remove it from the plant so I could bring it inside. What he didn’t realize yet, was that there was no way I was carrying that plant, even after the sizable unwelcome resident had been evicted. Not going to happen. With a little prodding of what appeared to me to be more likened to a tree branch than a mere stick (boys always have to over do everything), she move down into her web and we got a closer look and some pictures…of course I have take pictures of it. This unique creature still looked like an orange ball with legs. I’m sure that the body was constructed similarly to other arachnids, but this gal had all of her junk in the trunk. With a little research we found that she was an Marbled Orb Weaver spider. But I’m still not completely convinced that it didn’t arrive on the recent transport from mars.

One Comment so far:

  1. I know about that alien spider thing. Once years ago when photographing spiders (I used to be obsessed that way, but don’t have good equipment for it anymore) I found both a METALLIC PURPLE and a ZEBRA STRIPED spider on the same day. The purple one especially looked alien. Unfortunately that was before the days of digitals and I was playing with slide film that day….

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