Friday, August 31, 2007

All the way home

The spider, a fat, yellowish half-inch blob of a spider, dangled herself from a thread directly over my bed. Over my pillow; I opened my eyes and found myself staring into hers. I squirmed out from under and got up.

I was living in a 50-year-old log cabin in the Bella Coola Valley, 300 miles as the eagle flies north of Vancouver. These were whole logs, unplaned, chinked with ancient mud, with a "new" addition of home-sawn lumber, insulated with ancient rags and sawdust; bugs of all sorts were always with us, and we had learned to tolerate them. More or less. A spider hanging over my head while I slept was too much.

I twined a stick in the web and carried her downstairs and outside to the front porch; she would be very useful there, eating mosquitoes.

The next morning, she was hanging over my head.

Rinse, repeat. And again. Every morning, there she was, fat and sassy.

I gave up; I carefully moved her to the other side of my bedroom, to the alcove in front of the window, open for the duration of the warm weather. She scooted into the framework. "Stay there," I admonished her.

A workable compromise. She hung there all summer, getting bulkier every day. Occasionally, I fed her a moth that insisted on buzzing my bedside lamp. When the cold weather came, she disappeared.

How is it that a spider does that? How does she find her way home? Why does she persist in living "here" and no place else? Unanswered questions.

Cut to the present, and my tame, citified existence. A tiny spider hung himself from a thread over my desk. I climbed onto a chair and reached for him; he scuttled up out of my reach. Ok, fine. Maybe he'd catch a mosquito for me. But later, here he was, walking along the edge of my in box. Not ok. Again, he didn't let himself be caught; after several of my attempts, he went back to the ceiling.

I kept on going after him for several days; he kept tying his threads to different items on my desk, but racing for cover at the least move on my part. I began calling him my "nervous wreck spider".

Finally, I managed to get above him and move him, thread and all. Outside with you, spidey!

The next evening -- you guessed it; he was hanging over my desk.

That did it. Next time I got a handle on him, he went into a plastic jar lid with a clear piece of plastic taped on top. Here he is, in jail:

Looks to me like a tiny cross spider, Araneus diadematus.

A couple of days later, I fed him a mosquito. He was afraid of the monster until it had tangled itself up in his web and was immobilized. Still a nervous wreck. See the relative sizes: those flecks at the bottom are mosquito scales.

This week I fed him a woodbug. But I must not have taped the plastic on as securely as I thought; in the morning, I found a dead woodbug, but no spider. Oops! Well, maybe, by now, he would have learned his lesson, and he is long gone.

Nope. He is hanging above my desk, as I write this.

Next time I catch him, he's going for a long trip, to the trees across the lawn. I wonder how long it will take him to make his way back.


  1. Maybe you should tag the spider and track it's whereabouts!

  2. Hmmm...

    [trying to figure out how to tag a thing half the size of a mosquito]

  3. Yeah... a teeny radio collar..


    This is a very interesting post. I had no idea that spiders behaved this way!

  4. "Here, spidey, spidey; come here, look! I have a nice little collar for you! With its own radio, GPS locator and all! Here, spidey ..."

    Hmmm ... he's ignoring me.

    No, I wouldn't have imagined them doing this, either. They keep surprising me.

  5. ROFL!

    I wish I had cute spiders here. I had one in Nebraska that ate those obnoxious lady-bug-like beetles for me.

    Here in OK I only find brown recluses. *eep!*

  6. *eep!* is about it. When I lived for a year in OK, we had black widows, too. No spider-watching for me there, except in the context of "watching out for" them.


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