Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spiders



With the advent of fall, one notices the influx of spiders lurking about the garden, the rafters of the house and every nook available. They are a most interesting invertebrate in both appearance and habit. All are predators which make them valuable to the gardener as they will eat flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, locusts, cockroaches, and aphids. The habits differ among species with some making intricate webs to trap their prey while some lie in wait on flowers and some simply travel about on the ground. Now is the time to see the intricate web of the amazing Orb Weaver whose wonderful web will catch almost any flying insect. Particularly interesting is the way in which she will repair the web, giving it an almost stitch-like appearance.

Spiders are found in every corner of the planet, making them one of the most common invertebrates and they alone have eight legs. True spiders (thin-waisted arachnids) evolved about 400 million years ago, and were among the first species to live on land. There are many references to the spider in popular culture, folklore and symbolism. The spider symbolizes patience for its hunting with web traps, and mischief and malice for its poison and the slow death they cause their prey. Who could forget the pitiful death sequence in the movie 'The Fly'? Though not all spiders spin gossamer webs, spiders have been attributed by numerous cultures with the origin of basket-weaving, knotwork, weaving, spinning, and net making. Lovely pottery artifacts featuring spiders may be found in all ancient cultures, so respect for them is universal.

In any talk of spiders the two most dangerous must be mentioned. All spiders have venom however the Black Widow and Brown Recluse are very dangerous species whose bite may have disastrous results to humans. The Brown Recluse likes living in quiet corners of the house while the Black Widow resides outdoors. The Black Widow makes an untidy web as she is a member of the Tangleweb spiders. She will aggressively guard her egg sac and it is about now that her babies will be born. Both of these spiders have thin legs and a fragile skeletal structure which makes squishing them easy; do not hesitate to kill them.

The spiders which come to mind as favorites are the green jumpers, the garden and wolf spiders, and of course the gentle Tarantula. Many spiders die in one season (as in Charlotte's Web) so enjoyment of them is fleeting. Only the gentle Tarantula lives up to 20 years.

There is an entire psychological phobia named after fear of spiders called Arachnophobia. So popular is this fear that Hollywood chose to make a movie using it as a theme. However, our favorite Hollywood spider, Spider-Man, remains an all time hero.