Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Taking Candy from a Baby...

... but it wasn't exactly easy.

I've been keeping a close watch on my American house spider, Achearanea tepidariorum. She is still guarding those eggs, and not moving very far afield.

Except one night a week and a half ago. I went out about 10:30 to check on her; the male was still up near the ceiling in his usual place*, but she was far down the wall, and moving fast. I shone my flashlight in the direction of her travel, and there was a third spider, a small one about the size of the male. "My" female (let's call her Fat Momma, or FM, for convenience) was making dashes in its direction, stopping, backing up a pace or two, and then running forward again. The intruder held its ground until FM was less than a foot away, then it backed around the corner, out of sight. FM went back to her eggs.

Two days later, the little intruder was building a rickety web between the wall and a post, just out of FM's line of sight. The same type of web, so I gathered that it was also a house spider, whether male or female I couldn't tell yet. It caught a good-sized fly that first day.

By the end of last week, she was fat enough that I could tell she's a female, still immature. Let's call her Chica.

Backtracking: a few evenings earlier, I had seen and photographed this tiny beetle. A couple of shots only; when I went out in daylight, it had left.

But last Friday, it turned up in Chica's web.

All wrapped up.

I was trying for a close-up, when I saw that it was still moving.

Chica's back is turned, and Beetle is waving. Help!

Ok; it's just a beetle. Spider dinner. Probably already dying. At least anaesthesized. Doesn't feel a thing. But still, it felt bad to watch it wave there, and to pack away the camera and go about my business.

I did the rounds after dark that night. Chica was working away at the beetle's abdomen, shaking and vibrating, as if trying to drill through that hard exoskeleton. I left her to it.

The next afternoon, I checked on them again. Chica had what looked to be a smaller spider, and was busy at it, with her back to me. And Beetle: oh, horrors! What was Beetle doing?

Very much alive. Arms and legs moving. Running in space. Almost looks human, there.

I couldn't stand it; I cut Beetle down, and brought him inside. He was snugly bound, but squirming steadily. With a paintbrush and a tiny hook, I tried to remove some of the webbing, but I couldn't make any progress. That spider glue is good stuff.
I left poor Beetle to die in a plastic cup and didn't come back until past midnight. And he was still struggling, slowly and weakly. I wetted the webbing down and tugged at it again; some of it came free. Beetle lay still, but started to move again as soon as I stopped. What to do?

I put him on a damp napkin with the plastic cup inverted over him, just in case he managed to move around, and went to bed, telling myself I was crazy to be trying to help a beetle. A beetle, for Pete's sake! Forget it; he'll be dead in the morning. No big deal. Spider fodder.

In the morning, the cup was empty. Beetle was gone.

That felt good.


*About that male. He's gone. Or eaten, probably.

And Chica has another beetle today. This time, she managed to kill it properly; I looked closely, and it isn't moving. And she has been feeding calmly. Not jack-hammering her way in, like last time.


  1. What a GREAT POST! I never would have dreamed I could get behing the beetle and pull for it! I'm not nuts about finding spiders in the house but I really do enjoy watching them outside.

    Go Fat Momma!
    Go Chica!

  2. And gone, Beetle!

    Thanks, Lynne.

  3. Anonymous2:46 pm

    Great story! love it.

  4. Anonymous3:34 pm

    That's incredible! I also hate to watch any living thing suffer, even a beetle, but I would never have thought of trying to untangle the beetle from the spider webbing.

  5. Anonymous7:29 pm

    what a great post! I always end up empathizing with the insects--it's why I hardly ever collect any more.

  6. Anonymous1:14 pm

    Excellent post. Got here from Circle of the Spineless and your story made me really feel for you and the beetle. I always end up empathising with insect too. Think is, I don't even know if that's silly or not.

  7. Hi, CurlyToes!

    I guess it depends on who is defining "silly".

    I just went to your site; that is one cool jumping spider!

    (For the rest, just click on his name for the photo of the day.)


I'm having to moderate all comments because Blogger seems to have a problem notifying me. Sorry about that. I will review them several times daily, though, until this issue is fixed.

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!

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