Scared of bugs?

There is a long-running joke about my backyard and how I need to turn it into a nonprofit wild-life reserve. Which could work except I am mildly scared of palmetto bugs.

Who can forget the epic conclusion to the attic mysteries? To this day, the same squirrel that lived in our attic continues to mock me.

Then the months of speculating about the various escape holes now known to be a prolific vole problem— more than once–scroll down a bit. . Though I must say that the vole problem did completely cure me of my fear of nonvenomous snakes.

Then there was the last year’s outdoor black widow infestation.

Because y’all, I rocked the spider hunt like the female version of Steve Erwin. If Steve Erwin hunted spiders.

Knowledge is power. Instead of randomly knocking down every spider web in nature, because I know what the dangerous web looks, I’m not just walking around freaking out about every spider. Plus, outside spiders eat flies and mosquitoes.

We’d been clear of the widows until a few days ago when I noticed a bright splash of bright red in a web that I had been monitoring. This one is camera shy, poor thing.

Surely you panicked and screamed? Call pest control? Sprayed poison? Naw dude. I mean she’s gotta die, even thought she is technically following my wildlife nature rules of Those That Stay Outside Get To Live. Unfortunately she didn’t read the fine print excluding dangerously venomous spiders and any venomous snake.

I found my spider-poking stick and my camera and prepared the eviction.

Honestly, I found her web chillingly beautiful. Like all members of the Theridiidae family, cobweb spiders make disorganized, messy webs. By the way, the common house spider looks similar to a widow because they are second cousins, or something. But no red. And the egg sac for a brown widow spider is all spikey, not round.

Perhaps I’m feeling a bit of unrealistic kinship with the widow, you know? My house is disorganized and messy; her house is disorganized and messy. Now she and I can get together and hate on all those damn orb weavers, mocking us with their perfectly neat webs.

Please note, for the arachnophobic, this link takes you to pictures of spiders. Lots of ’em.

Kinship aside, I still scraped her web and two egg sacks into a bucket full of soapy vinegar water to drown while I smooshed them with my spider poking stick.

I’ve seen how she treats her mate; I don’t need to add another back-stabbing female to my life, thankyouverymuch.

Now the point of this post is both educational (go back and look at those webs) and ironic, not a tooting of my Bad Ass horn.

Because the ginormous palmetto bug* taking a stroll down the bath tub, while waving his stupid giant antenna at me in what was quite obviously a middle finger gesture? Yeah, he’d tell you that I’m so not a bad ass.

Did I kill the palmetto bug? Take a picture of it to share?
Hell, no! I very slowly backed out of the bathroom and told JB to go “kill, killer.”

Irrational? Yes. But for all of the black widow’s venom, they move really slowly. For all of the palmetto bugs lack of venom, they move freakishly fast, and *gulp* sometimes FLY. Bugs that can take flight have this sick need to land in my hair.

And y’all? The first time I have a palmetto bug in my hair I’m shaving it off Sinead O’Conner style and I don’t care a bit about rationality.

*Palmetto bug is the name that those of us living in the humid, verdant South like to use instead of “MONSTER FLYING COCKROACH”. In case you didn’t know.

That Isn’t Charlotte

This house and its wildlife adventures? For me, there is nothing left but slightly unhinged laughter. Starlings and squirrels in the attic? Check. Moles, voles, gophers, chipmunks, snakes– one night a fox– and whatever-the-hell-else’s that call my little plot of land home. Check. I don’t bother watering our 9 blades of grass– it’s a waste when the days are in 100s–but I have absolutely stuck a house down a vole’s bolt hole, and stood with a perverted grin in my face as I watched the flooding.

But now?

For those of you that are arachnophobic– I’ll give you fair warning before the pictures. And there will be some pictures– later.

First off, I’d like to announce that I was, once upon a time, totally freaked out, squealing in my high-pitched girl voice about spiders. I hated them all, equally. Then I married JB and we kind of came to some sort of television show trade-off agreement. For every DIY/decorating/landscaping show I made him watch, I had to to watch some sort of Discovery/National Geographic/NOVA special.

It ended up being a win/win: because each of us had at least been exposed to these topics,
I was able to convince him that we could do our own plumbing, and he was able to convince me that the common brown snake is better left alive.

Which is why, when I noticed a black spider sparkling motionless betwixt my kitchen window and the screen one morning, I didn’t scream. It’s also why I knew exactly what she was, even without seeing the red hourglass. Know thy enemy.

A mouse? A mouse and I would have been at my Mama’s house. But a spider with venom more toxic than a rattlesnake, watching me watch her while I sipped thoughtfully on my coffee? This wasn’t a freak out moment (there was a pane of glass between us, after all). Lesson 1– fear isn’t logical.

Alright my arachnophobic friends, you might want to slowly back away now. Me? Either I’m getting braver in my advancing years, or I’m starting to suffer from testosterone poisoning.

First off, non-histrionic knowledge is power. So very carefully using google– and avoiding all information delivered by sites related to pest control companies– I found information.

Um, each egg hatches 200-900 little baby spiders. Holy shit, that’s enough to make one pack up and leave, hunh? However, the babies are cannibals, so most of them simply don’t survive. That cannibal information is the bit that most of the pest companies leave out, by the way.

Based on where I am finding the concentration of my little shiny black friends, I think I actually got a picture of the hatchlings right at their birth. Sadly, I only got two before I heard Elliot– from his inflatable pool- say “Mommy, I got your phone”. The spiders were forgotten as I tended to my Precious.

How perfect is it that they are on a bottle of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo? If only I could have OCD’ed this shot– but if you click and enlarge it, you can see what I’m talking about.

Then there was Charlotte, aka Kitchen Window Spider. I think she’s young-ish, based on the size of the other’s I have seen.

Dude, I was all tap, tap, tapping on the window to get a good picture of her. Because I am, apparently a moron. Or in such desperate need of an adrenaline rush that pissing off a really venomous spider was just… well, exciting.

Or it was exciting–when it was just 2 of them. Finding a ginormous one, protecting eggs at the ground below the kitchen window? Kind of dampening the excitement. Then finding Daddy Black Widow– poor guy, already slated for death and I did him in before he get some– in the sandbox was just anticlimactic. (Ha-ha— get it?)

Now I’m just annoyed. Tonight I killed 11 or so, in various dark locations around the back yard. I crushed their eggs, too. Also, when one’s can of chemical spider killer runs out, vinegar does a decent job of stunning them so you can squash them with the back end of a shovel.
And the whole time, JB thought I was doing my scheduled run, saying as much when I came inside, sweating like a… well, someone who had been running.

Naw, no running for me today. I was outside killing some stuff.