Smart Bug


Left field might be the place my pondering mind landed; suddenly I’m in search of the world’s smartest insect. Without a lick of research, I’m certain there are many species of surprisingly astute creepy crawlers. Naming the ant, bee or termite lacks imagination – invading colonies might as well be Mongrel hordes yet a single ant or bee is nothing without the collective to back it up. I’m looking for outstanding individuals, bugs serving no master but themselves.

Portia Labiata is a “jumping spider” found in southeast Asia – this is one smart bug. This guy is straight out of Starship Troopers – ponder an adaptive predator who excels at trickery and problem solving  –  Portia Labiata at your service. This smarty pants lures other spiders into it’s web with reconnaissance and adaptive learning. Patiently waiting, motionless and alert, legs tucked in to avoid detection – watching other insects come and go – Portia Labiata “plucks” at the web of  her targeted prey. Tricking unsuspecting spiders into thinking something is caught in their web.

Known as problem solvers, they learn through trial and error, remembering routines of other insects. Portia Labiata can even swim – laboratory experiments liken Portia to raptors in Jurassic Park – creatures able to employ tactics based on experience. Remarkable for an insect with a brain the size of a pin head. Portia’s sesame seed sized eyes are larger than it’s brain; explaining why it has ten times the visual acuity of a cat.

I’m sorry I ever pondered smart bugs. Knowing an adaptive little spider ranks as one of the brightest creatures in the world –  sits like greasy pork chops when I have the flu. Portia is no larger than my thumbnail and lives half a world away. Knowing a smart ass bug is out there, capable of strategy and problem solving gives me the willies.

http://arthropodagroupc.wikispaces.com/Portia+Labiata

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Portia Labiata

Sneaky Basement Widow


Black Widow Spider number eight – I applaud your sneaky antics. You’ve been strutting your stuff in the laundry room; assuming perhaps that I hadn’t noticed. Dessicated insects litter the windowsill, your presence sensed for ages – visual confirmation eluding me until tonight. You are craftier than your seven predecessors; waiting until the light bulb burnt out – waiting for me to fumble about in darkness before making a move. Kudos number eight; you almost got away with it, but I saw you – the jigs up.

Black Widow number eight concerns me a little more than the others. Once I was able to wrap my head around a Vancouver basement alive with Black Widows, avoidance was easy. The other spiders stayed put, discovered under the broom or in a corner, it was easy to dispatch them. Common sense dictated a few precautions – we managed under the same roof without incident. Number eight is different; by far the largest, certainly the fastest and without question the sneakiest.

Until number eight tried pulling a fast one on me – I’d just about forgotten about basement Widows. On some level I knew I still had a Black Widow problem; never occurring to me I would have to do something about it in late October. Still pondering why seven Widows never bothered me, yet sneaky number eight crossed the line.

You have no one to blame but yourself number eight – we could have stayed the course, continued along the path of mutual respect and tolerance. You had to strut your stuff, get in my face and rock the boat. Now I have to hire an exterminator; at the very least, purchase your death in a spray can, insecticidal bomb or nasty trap. I wish you could understand how this breaks my heart – almost all Black Widows one – seven were captured and released outside. My sincerest apologies to number five or maybe six – you caught me at a bad moment – your stomping was merely a reflex. Number one was forced to live in a jar for far too long simply because you are handsome arachnids.

Prior to this evenings encounter with number eight I was prepared to share my house; the last thing I wanted was a spider war. You forced my hand number eight; I’m sorry to inform you – I know where you live, I saw you sneaking into the wall socket when you thought I was otherwise occupied. You’ve ruined things for everyone – why did you have to be so sneaky?

http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=f3dacb8c-84bc-412f-a82f-812bf3584ec8

Snakes or Spiders?


Spiders don’t bother me; for decades I’ve been the designated spider slayer in my home. Naturally the designation doesn’t thrill me – those substantial arachnid intruders; the ones you can almost hear as they tip tap across the floor give me pause for a second – then it’s down to business, people are counting on me. To the dismay of the family, if at all possible I capture and release them outside. Assurances they aren’t hit men, have no vendetta, and are unlikely to make their way back inside do little to soothe the phobic nerves of my family.

Spiders are a fact of life, most are harmless, or at least not life threatening. Even the seven black widow spiders I’ve spotted, captured, or killed over the last year in my basement, don’t bother me as long as they stay downstairs.

Snakes are a completely different story; I’m incapable of applying the same rational thoughts when a snake is involved. Living in the heart of a major city in British Columbia, a snake should be the last thing to worry about. Or so I thought – “Daddy, please catch a snake for us” was the plea from our young children. We were on Vancouver Island, garter snakes were everywhere, and before I could scream “are you out of your mind”, we’re on the ferry home with a snake in a pail. The kids have already named it Mrs. Slithers.

Telling myself “hysteria” was a poor example for the kids, I made myself scarce as my husband set Mrs. Slithers up in an old aquarium. I even took the high ground when he assured me it couldn’t get out, and I was being silly. I didn’t “freak out” in front of the kids, I didn’t tell him he could deal with house spiders from now on, I even attempted interest. The next day Mrs. Slithers had 11 babies.

Kids love playing with baby snakes – kids love having all their friends over to play with baby snakes. Within a few days we were down to 7 or 8 babies. Attempts to convince myself the missing snakes were outside lasted about as long as a snowball in July. It was time for the Slithers family to move out – we made a day out of delivering them to the shore of Beaver Lake in Stanley Park.

What is it about phobias that make us lose our minds? Why is it that we trivialize the phobia of others as “silly”? Some studies suggest we are programmed to fear spiders and snakes as they could cause harm, while others contend these phobias are a learned behaviour – passed on by phobic parents. I grew up in a place where we were taught from a early age to watch out for rattlesnakes and black widow spiders yet snakes are the only thing that makes my skin crawl. When I think about it – I can’t come up with a single person I know who fears both snakes and spiders. Go figure.