This hastily snapped image of basement widow is dedicated to Ark – https://attaleuntold.wordpress.com/ – the only person I know who appreciates the fact my basement Black Widow spider survived the winter.
A few days ago I noticed bathroom widow had moved on. She does this every autumn, bathroom widow is always the first to go. It took her conspicuous absence to prompt a reconnaissance mission. Scolding myself for being so remiss I took a long overdue, busy is no excuse tour of my house widow lairs. “Reconnaissance mission” is a tad dramatic, in truth there are only two widow camps left in the house. (There used to be four – bathroom widow moved out and bedroom widow succumbed to an unfortunate vacuum mishap several weeks ago ).
Kitchen widow hadn’t budged, nor by all appearances had she consumed a proper meal all summer. Much as I respect impeccable manners and polite adherence to house rules, she could learn a thing or two from basement widow.
Basement widow didn’t flinch when pulled blind thrust her into the spotlight. Presiding over a berm of skeletal remains, her marquee read “this is my domain”. “Outstanding” rolled off my lips. Beaming respect accompanied a closing of blind retreat. Reign on basement widow, reign on.
Last night I met the biggest baddest Black Widow spider. In polite residence behind a flower pot, she exhibited outrage when my broom swept her onto the deck. Stopped in my tracks, this was no ordinary widow. Reflex trumped reason, instinct called for capture. There I stood, mesmerized by the cup of deck widow in my hand. Behemoth is an understatement, abdomens of bedroom, kitchen and basement widows combined wouldn’t equal the girth of deck widow’s belly. Now what?
Couldn’t say how much time lapsed between scrutinizing her magnificence and impulsively running downstairs to show my husband. ” Caught the biggest widow I’ve ever seen” – no match for “Are you crazy? Kill it!”. What was I thinking – he’s snakes I’m spiders, together we have it covered and obviously the two will never meet. “Relax, I’ll take care of it”.
Logically, deck widow needed a new home. Not all arachnids can be trusted, sometimes spiders call for catch and release. Cup in hand I crossed the street, depositing deck widow on the sidewalk for one last look. The couple walking their dog couldn’t hide assumptions I was out of my mind. Intent on capturing photos with my phone, they didn’t ask, nor did I explain deck widow was one bad ass spider.
Misplacing bedroom widow has me questioning guidelines of my liberal position on house spiders. Far from the first time a bedroom widow went missing, it may be time to tighten parameters of leniency. It was there this morning, tucked under the windowsill, politely respecting our agreement of six weeks – “stay as long as you like, but stay where you are”. I distinctly recall saying “have a nice day spider” as I left for work.
Maybe bedroom widow found the room a tad stifling, it was freaking hot today. Approaching midnight and the thermostat reads 82 degrees Fahrenheit on the main floor -unpleasant by any standard, I’m going to visualize lost widow blissfully sipping bug juice cocktails beneath soft cool mist falling from my garden canopy.
Downstairs is considerably cooler, almost bearable. As such, basement widow hasn’t made travel plans. Older, wiser and familiar with summer heat, basement widow is an asshole for not mentoring bedroom widow on the intricacies of household habitation. Greedy basement widow – I guess she wanted all the fat beetles for herself.
Anyone faced with losing a spider, knows to take stock of all house spiders. Basement widow was right where I left her, busily bundling a fat beetle.
An understanding exists between myself and spiders – polite spiders can stay, uppity wanderers are shown the garden. This spring I said “welcome back” for the third year to a well mannered black widow who fancies a vent in the frame of my bathroom window. Several weeks ago a small widow moved to a quiet plot beneath the bedroom window frame. The epitome of graceful respect, the world would be a better place if all house spiders took a page from the widow book.
Clearly spiders will be spiders, just as some people grind my last nerve, certain spiders are oblivious to matters of decorum. Of course spiders don’t conceptualize cause and effect, driven by instinct they go about their merry way without cumbersome moral restraint.
Household spider sightings elicit urgent requests for immediate dispatch of arachnid horrors. At my discretion they’re shown the door, catch and release is the avenue of choice for cheeky spiders. “Off you go, stay in this lovely garden” usually solves the problem. Calm resolve ends the crisis in all but one situation. No quarrel exists with behemoth basement spiders or errant wolf spiders, the demon pictured bellow is another matter.
The photograph is lousy (taken in haste on my cell phone), I have no idea what kind of spider it is, all I can tell you – I don’t like this spider. It receives no mercy. Night after night it taunts me with unpredictable actions and glassy eyed defiance. Lurking under my pillow, uttering taunts from ceiling, wall and blinds, laughing brazenly when opening a drawer. Much as I want to say “out the door you rascal”, relentless bullying forces “take that you little shit” as I squash it in a tissue. I don’t like this spider.
Forget calendars, spiders are first to recognize spring’s breeze. Before bulbs break ground or buds blister naked branches – spiders abandon winter crevices with purposeful determination. First, the house spiders – dedicated arachnids who didn’t leave at first frost, spiders sensible enough to hunker down for dibs on spring real estate. Neighborly perfection, well mannered widows unaware of their mesmerizing bellies, spiders intent on maintaining the sanctity of property lines. Unobtrusive guests so mindful of personal space, I’m left to smile fondly at the promise of spring.
A few weeks later the mercenaries arrive. Defined by guile and opportunity, legions of irreverent lunkheads infiltrate the sanctity of my home. Unruly spiders determined to bully spring with paraded exhibitionism. Unsophisticated numskulls without dignity or common sense. Wave after wave exhaust abundant spiderly tolerance. “Shoo, shoo – get off my computer”, “that’s quite enough, why are you in my drawer?”. Diligent capture and release does little to squelch the rogue spiders of spring.
Ever the optimist I made excuses for their folly, cutting slack after springtime slack. Barely a whisper of exasperation accompanied robotic rituals of catch and release. Yesterday brought tolerance to its knees – spring spiders set foot in my bed. Stupid spiders, you blew your welcome – a polite spider would stay out of my bed. Gloves off, try again next spring.
Statistically this is my most viewed post. Since original posting, I’ve learned my black widow house spiders are actually False widows – still doesn’t explain why this of all my 1,000 plus posts is the most read.
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…
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Happenstance anticipated my return from work, facilitating discovery of bathroom and bedroom spiders within moments of each other. Bathroom spider came first, announcing herself with curtsied flare through a tiny vent on the window frame. An unmistakable presence, expressed in polite display of her polished black belly. “Good evening spider” made it official – Spring had arrived. Mindful of missed signals or misinterpretation, bedroom spider stood in brazen watch beneath the sill. Not to be upstaged by bathroom spider, bedroom spider presented her lustrous belly with measures of respectful confidence. “Lovely to see you again” solidified Spring’s early return.
Steatoda Grossa (False Black Widow) moved in a few years ago. Skeptical at first, unclear over motive, manners or intent, we eyed each other with uneasy caution. Awed by their work ethic, meticulous awareness of spacial boundaries and indifference towards exploration – we made peace. A declaration stipulating acceptance based on one condition – land speculation is out of the question, build comfortable homes and stay put. A workable truce, broken once last summer by a second cheeky bedroom spider who went rogue, never to be seen again.
Be it bathroom, bedroom, kitchen or laundry room spider – as if by command, they vanish at first signs of frost, retreating to mysterious realms known only to winter spiders. Oblivion engulfs Steatoda Grossa. Noticeably absent precedes nary a thought, all but forgotten until stirrings of imminent spring mark their return. Today was that day.
Gentle rain forest winter spared Vancouver tongues uttering arctic out-flows, polar vortex, deep freeze, windchill, or snowfall warning. Despite bold daffodils towering six inches above rain soaked soil, blooming crocus and snowdrop, rosy plum blossoms tossing caution to the wind – February’s winter fury remained fathomable.
Forget groundhog shadows or Farmer Almanacs, dismiss calendars and weather channel designations – when spiders reclaim familiar pasture in my home, spring has officially declared itself.
Living for well over a year in a house dominated by an infestation of Black Widow spiders is stressful. Occasional laundry room encounters, replaced over time by flagrant ambush intent, a malicious massing of troops oblivious to boundaries or my personal space. Buoyed by apparent inaction – basement widows became kitchen, bathroom and bedroom sentries. No sooner would I find one, another was lost.
Apparently I wasn’t alone. My post “Seven Black Widow Spiders” ranks as third most read of nearly 850 posts. A lot of Vancouver residents were under siege.
Enter Catherine Scott, a student of Entomology at Simon Fraser University. Long story short – Catherine looked at photos of my spiders, concluding with enough certainty to make my day – it was all a masquerade. My cheeky Arachnid invaders are False Black Widows, AKA Steatoda Grossa, not Latrodectus Hesperus, the nightmare widows I feared.
Steatoda Grossa – False Black Widow
Less venomous, common in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, and easily masquerading as their ominous cousins if seen under dim light. Dark light makes them appear black, in reality their bulk is a brownish purple up close and personal under favourable lighting. The abdomen of False Widows is more oblong in shape than rounded bellies of true Black Widows.
Thank you Catherine, I slept much better last night.
This picture of Black Widow number ten isn’t the sharpest, but the best I could muster considering the awkward corner of our basement she decided to hold court. Her growing pile of corpses testament to her wise decision of laying low and keeping out of the way. The room is only used for storage, I can’t say what made me pull back the curtain, yet was fairly certain I would find her there.
She seems to be well mannered, I suspect no intention on her part to stray from her well established lair. Officially she is widow #11 because my husband assassinated one in the family room a few days ago – fair enough, I annihilated #9, who I dubbed bedroom widow because it lived under the dresser in my bedroom.
I’ve known for well over a year that my Vancouver home is infested with Black Widows. Almost 70 years old, practically nirvana for creepy crawlies seeking a safe warm place. My dilemma stems from finding them rather fascinating – I’ve watched several of her predecessors trap flies with admiration, whenever possible I catch and release spiders outside.
A combination of research and observation lulls me into a sense of security. Black Widows are not aggressive, don’t roam about or do anything other than politely stake claim to quiet corners. I’ve never seen one out for a stroll – undoubtedly a contributing factor in my progression towards a crazy spider lady – at least I don’t name them or hand feed sacrificial insects. I probably need my head examined – until I figure out what to do, all I ask is that they keep to the basement and stay out of the laundry basket. Enjoy life while you can #10, common sense always prevails – an exterminator is in your immediate future.