I like spiders, because I don’t like flies and the spiders kill them for me. My neighbour doesn’t feel the same way. He has the greenest and most environmentally un-friendly lawn in the street. He spends an awful lot of time, effort, money, water and chemicals on achieving this. Despite this, we still talk over the fence about our gardens and life in general.
But to get back to spiders, last year I discovered a redback spider living in the witch’s hat on my back paving. The witch’s hat has a base like a flower and my name stencilled on it, so it’s a centre piece of my back paving decor. When it started doubling as a spider lair and nursery it became so much more special to me. The spider felt so safe and satisfied food-wise that she laid an egg sack. Every so often I would look down the hole in the top of the witches hat at her, but we didn’t interact much more than that.
A while after this, my next-door neighbour told me how he had just had a redback plague in his garden. He asked me if I’d problems with spiders. I never have problems with spiders (how could I when I like them?) and I told him this. It was only later that I wondered if the chemical war he waged was against the children of “my” redback. Are these deaths my fault? I hope mother redback and at least some of her brood missed the massacre.
Obviously some people don’t think as highly of redbacks as I do. Their venom is poisonous to people, but you won’t necessarily die if bitten, it just hurts and it’s recommended you see a doctor. My dad (who’s a doctor) told me that a baby would die if bitten, so I guess it depends on the size of your body. Michael told me of a man who was bitten twenty times by a redback while he was in bed and he died. I subsequently found from the Courier Mail newspaper of 11 July 2001 that the man didn’t die, he just went through an awful lot of antivenene. I wondered why you would let yourself be bitten that many times but Michael reminded me that when you’re in bed you’re often asleep.
Redback spiders don’t like houses, they like dark, secret corners to set up their web. Wood-piles, a collection of empty plant pots, the back shed, are their homes of choice. I guess the inside of a neon orange witch’s hat is dark enough.
I have a lot of “pet” spiders in the garden, but I don’t particularly like finding spiders in my house. When I was little I hated seeing spiders inside. The most likely spider house guest is a huntsman spider and they’re pretty scary when you’re little. Now I’m all grown-up, when I find a spider inside I’ll just take it outside. I’m not game enough to use my hands, I slide a piece of paper under it and if it’s a huntsman, removal is better achieved with a broom. But I don’t often find them inside; the garden must be too good a hunting ground.
This year a different spider has taken up residence down the witch’s hat. In the gap between the rear-view mirror of my car and its housing there’s a spider. I regularly remove the web from the mirror, but I’ve only seen the spider once or twice, but I think she’s a Black House Spider. When she first took up residence I thought that driving around with a spider couldn’t be too good for her (and I do drive my car, it’s not a wreck), so I tried to get her out. I once even hosed the gap with water when I washed my car. Next time I got in my car, there was another web over the mirror – I guess she liked having a spa in his house.
Between two poles of the car port, another spider has taken up residence. We discovered this by walking into her huge web coming home at night. A few times of this and we learnt to walk around the other way. Michael said she’s a Garden Orb Weaver. Every night she spins her web and by the next night it’s gone and has to be spun again. Every morning the rising sun shines through the web and it looks amazing. One morning I dragged Michael outside to see the web by saying, “Come outside and look at this – its amazing.” He went against his will, complaining of the cold and on seeing it, said, “Who cares?” He’s just grumpy when he first gets up.