Good Spider, Bad Spider
Dumbledore (left) and Huntsman Who Did Not Heed Me (right)
Sydney’s in the middle of a plague of spiders. Summer forgot to end and for weeks the weather has been like a skipping CD: humid, 30 degrees, sunny – every single day. Mostly people have been enjoying this, except for the fact that you cannot walk anywhere without charging face first into a spiderweb. For safety, you have to walk with one arm flailing in front of you, like a Dalek at a Donald Trump rally.
Apparently because it rained a lot in January there has been a boom in spider food, aka bugs, and the subsequent warm dry conditions meant that more baby spiders than usual have been surviving.
We’ve met some delightful spiders this year. There is a small spider who lives in the passenger-side wing mirror of my car. For safety when driving I have to wipe his web off most mornings with a piece of my children’s artwork, which I mostly keep filed on the floor of the car. I then fling the web collage out the window into the garden. That spider doesn’t seem to mind and he creeps out to start rebuilding the web whenever I stop the car at the lights.
There’s a huge black garden spider who lives out the front, named Dog, because he is as big as a dog. The kids like to throw food into his web – dead bugs and flowers. He appreciates the bugs, but he is so-so on pink crepe myrtle blosoms.
There was also Hagrid, a St Andrew’s Cross spider who lived by the back door for three weeks. He had a lot of babies and moved away the next day. Another St Andrew’s Cross spider, called Dumbledore because he is a bit grey, is still around, living next to the back gate. He is causing no trouble to anyone, and as I far as I am concerned he is welcome to stay as long as he likes because he is an example to spiders everywhere. His best quality is staying in his web. That is the kind of spider behaviour of which I approve. A mostly still, web-based spider is fine.
It’s the ones who don’t live in a web that I struggle with. Like the poor unnamed huntsman I killed on Thursday. He was bigger than either of my children at birth, and he was lurking on the living room ceiling. H was lurking in Brisbane at the time, and my backup Huntsman hunter, Dad, was lurking in darkest Victoria at a wedding.
The huntsman was, admittedly, not doing anything wrong. Well, apart from being inside. I’d left an unscreened window open the previous afternoon for a couple of hours and he’d obviously marched in to get a milk arrowroot biscuit or mess up the playroom (the main reasons visitors come to my house).
I noticed him in the morning, reopened the window and said, ‘Please go outside.’ He didn’t. I waved the broom near him, to encourage him to leave, but he just did a lot of skittering from side to side around the cornice. That was a mistake. If he’d stayed still I probably would have let him be, but I don’t like or trust things that make sudden moves. Sprinters and nervous huntsman spiders are the chief culprits in this category. Oscar Pistorius is a case in point.
After I’d called H and wept a bit, I dug out a can of insecticide spray. I cried while I murdered the huntsman. He had the last laugh by running around frantically and terrifyingly before disappearing under the sofa.
When I came home later that day, I went looking for him under the sofa. I was expecting him to be curled up dead and looking tiny and non-threatening. He wasn’t there.
Garnet and I vacuumed every inch of the floor and under all the cushions. We found an arsenal of pens, numerous random toy parts and about $367 in change, but no dead spider.
The next day I spotted the huntsman, lying upside down and dead on the carpet behind an armchair. He still looked bloody massive, which was satisfying because by then H was back and could see why I had cried and freaked out. Or at least he said he could see why, because he is a grade A husband.