Kitchen Widow


I don’t know if Black Widows are coming out of the woodwork because the weather is changing or if I simply hadn’t noticed kitchen window Widow because a plant was in the way. Barely 2 days after discovering basement Widow #8, kitchen widow has made its presence known.

My house is old; built in the 1930’s, and crying for a fresh coat of paint. My kitchen is first in line – the reason I moved the plants off the windowsill to give it a good wash and sanding. I caught sight of kitchen widow after moving plants; reaching over to give the sill a good wash – I saw her. In all honesty it was her pile of insect carcasses that caught my attention – like a pile of bones outside a troll’s cave.

Probably not the best photo of kitchen Widow; taken on my phone at a strange angle, doing little to showcase her distinctive black “bulb” of a body. Never the less, I assure you it’s there. I think it would be safe to say – my house is officially infested with Black Widows. I don’t want to disturb kitchen Widow too much – at least I know where she is, and it looks like she’s been there a while. The last thing I need is to make her mad before I can figure a way out of this problem.

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.

The Plague


As a kid I never lost sleep over ghosts or monsters under the bed; clowns were another matter, they gave me nightmares. Not fooled by grease paint and oversized shoes, I was quite convinced clowns were a secret army of malevolent  soldiers, with an agenda of unspeakable horrors, I avoided them like the plague.

Oddly enough, my sleepless nights stemmed almost exclusively from unstoppable diseases or unfortunate calamity. Ebola, a haemorrhagic virus lurking in the darkest of jungles, dissolving your body until death mercifully took you when nothing was left of your former self but a puddle of dissolving mush. Spontaneous human combustion couldn’t be “caught”, nor could it be avoided – night terror central. Tapeworms, black widow spiders,  all delivered gut churning worry. Corners of my mind gathered the dust of circumstance beyond my control – monsters and goblins could be defeated using clever strategy and wits, but try as I might defence against perils of our natural world eluded me. When I learned about Smallpox and how it eradicated indigenous people in the Americas I nearly lost my mind. Since my sister had eczema doctors advised against immunizing our family for Smallpox. My mother’s assurance there hadn’t been a case for years did little for my sleepless nights; I wasn’t buying it – if everything was sunshine and roses, then why were children still being immunized?

As I grew older anguish faded; common sense replaced secret hysteria, maturity delivered me from the curse of night panic. It wasn’t until the early 80’s dropped the AIDS bomb, and friends started dropping like flies that dread invaded my thoughts again. Then came bird flu, SARS, and H1N1.

Now reports of Bubonic Plague identified in Los Angeles squirrels has me thinking – holy crap. Three campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest were evacuated and closed as a precaution after routine tests turned up a plaguey squirrel. It surprised me to learn on average seven people are infected with “the plague” in the U.S. every year, since 1984 four cases of plague have been diagnosed in LA County and none were fatal. Bubonic plague is a bacterial rather than a viral infection. Properly identified and treated with antibiotics the “black death” appears treatable – apparently far more manageable than the black death responsible for the deaths of 25 million people in the middle ages. Transmitted by flea bites, rats were the medieval carriers – squirrel couriers freak me out.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/07/26/bubonic-plague-infested-squirrel-shuts-down-los-angeles-county-national-park/

North Americans twenty years ago had never heard of West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever or Bubonic Plague outside fictional stories or the occasional National Geographic magazine in the doctor’s waiting room. Black Death lived in medieval history classes, Malaria and Typhus only happened some place else.

No longer that child, and thankfully not an obsessive compulsive adult with handwashing or germ phobias, I welcome a little  bacteria in my life. Avoiding antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, washing my hands with soap and water rather than hand sanitizer, and playing it cool with “antibacterial” everything. A few germs help build immune systems – saving antibiotics for dire situations gives us a fighting chance when nature rolls out the big guns.

The Spanish Flu epidemic began in 1918 and is credited with 50 – 100 million funerals depending on whose report you read. Unlike Bubonic plague, flu is a virus, meaning antibiotics are useless. Thanks to the AIDS epidemic medicine has come a long way in developing anti-viral drugs;  anti- bacterial remedies for the most part can handle assignments, anti-viral drugs work to suppress or minimize symptoms – a huge difference.

The microscopic world constantly mutates and evolves – viruses are nasty business, nastier even than “plague squirrel” that set this ponder in motion. The “holy crap” moment I experienced when hearing the story served as a reminder – I would rather face zombies, a scenario with a fighting chance than be at the mercy of unseen organisms.

Seven Black Widow Spiders


I spotted Black Widow spiders number six and seven in my laundry room. One through five appeared last summer. I managed to wrangle most of them, unfortunately six and seven eluded capture. This is not good. Laundry is in the basement, fingers crossed black widows like basements.

Growing up in rural B.C. we were taught to be on the lookout for two things – rattlesnakes and black widow spiders. Not once did I encounter either. Here I am 40 years later, encased in urban sprawl with black widows everywhere. Hard to call it surprising – I never saw a coyote, skunk, or raccoon either, and all of them are regular occurrences in my city yard.

This leads me to ponder evolution and adaptation of species. Why my house in the middle of a city is besieged by an infestation of spiders remains unanswered. Not just any spider, but black widows with potential to deliver a very bad day. Spiders that are supposed to reside in a climate far different than rainy Vancouver. I guess my dry basement offers  warm haven – small comfort in the face of possible flesh eating bites.

It could be worse; the bite of a black widow won’t kill you, only melt your flesh. If Brown Recluse were the problem, I’d be packing my bags instead of writing. All the same, I’d like them to move out – seven black widows in less than a year doesn’t make me happy.