More Florida Wildlife (Not for the Squeamish)

Like Axa, I’m O.K. with snakes. Lizards don’t bother me, even if they’re crawling on me. I can pick up snails, and I have even petted a slug at (Axa’s request, of course). But arthropods. Oh, arthropods. I do not do arthropods.

Due to nature study, and my commitment to helping my children say “ohhhh!” not “ewwww!” when they see an insect, I can now get on tolerably well with ants, ladybugs, crabs, praying mantises, and even beetles (and by “getting on” I mean literally letting them get on me and not freaking out). This has been a long and painful process, and I’m still working on the occasional flare up of internal anti-insect sentiment.

However, once you add on that extra set of legs, I experience a sort of breakdown. You know what I’m talking about. Spiders. Eww, eww, eww. Whether my aversion is due to early Tolkien/Shelob exposure or some other reason, spiders and I just do not mix. I can’t even start thinking about their unnaturally-jointed legs and many-domed eyes and creaking, awful jaws without starting to hyperventilate.

(The only other thing that comes close is cockroaches, or Palmetto bugs, as I have recently discovered they are called in Florida. Thank you, Rachel! We won’t even go into my morbid fascination with Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.)

At the same time, the thought of wantonly killing insects (and any other living thing for that matter) is disturbing to me on many levels. My environmental scruples, admiration of Jain doctrine on the subject, homeschool mommy-guilt for smashing potential educational moments rather than taking advantage of them, and an overpowering squeamish phobia of touching or in some way feeling those horribly crunchy exoskeletons conspire to render me completely immobilized in the face of even a minor entomical problem.

Unfortunately, like most tropical climates, Florida is a notorious location for major entomical problems. Such as the one I discovered inside my  screened-in porch this morning. Yes, I said screened-in. Supposedly it is screened in to keep out the bugs. So I admit, it was a little ominous when we first arrived here and I noticed this inside the porch.

Don’t be alarmed, dear readers. The spider is dead. And no, the photo isn’t enlarged. Well, O.K. it’s a little enlarged. But the psychological impact is not enlarged. And I’m sorry to say that this spider still on the back porch, because I just can’t bring myself to get close enough to remove it.

It must have been long dead, I assumed initially. It probably sneaked in when somebody left the porch door open. Right? And we would be able to clear off these bits of cobweb in the corners of the porch, and everything would be clean and free of hairy legs and compound eyes.

Today I took a closer look at some of those “bits of cobweb.” And inside I saw these:

How lovely! And how fascinating. I wonder, what could those little yellow, spiky globes be. Well, when I saw them, I knew at once that they must be some sort of uthica (did you know that word? Now you do. Isn’t it a charming, evocative word?).

The virtuous side of me immediately thought of Charlotte painstakingly laboring over her “magnum opus” and then heroically dying as she saved Wilbur’s life (I dare you to tell me you didn’t cry over the death of a spider when you were eight years old and first reading Charlotte’s Web).

I remembered what Wilbur asks Templeton to do in the book, and so I carefully took a kitchen knife, detached the cute little egg-case from its web, and took it safely down to the grove of trees outside our porch. The little spiders could float off and start their happy little lives outside my porch.

The only problem was that behind the uthica was a large, brown, very-much-alive spider, who I imagined must be beside herself with rage at the fact that I had just stolen her offspring. I decided that I should go inside and see which type of spider I was dealing with. She didn’t really look Charlotte-ish to me.

I am sincerely sorry that in this photo she appears to you only as an ominous lurking menace. I couldn’t bring myself to get any closer.

To my dismay, google revealed that the spider I was dealing with (easily recognizable, the University of Florida webpage announced, by its distinctive spiky egg-sac) was a brown widow. As in many things, Florida apparently paints its insects with a large brush. The bite of the brown widow is twice as venemous as that of the black widow, up till now the most unnerving spider I had yet encountered.

Closer inspection revealed that these little webs (each presumably containing a spider and her progeny) are all over the inside of my porch. Akkk! By this time, I was picturing the movie “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” and an army of newly-hatched, sinister spiders invading my house.

I evacuated the porch of children, and came inside to think over what should be done next. Ultimately, I decided that the most important thing was to first settle myself down by blogging. Unfortunately, this post is nearing its close, and I’m still no closer to dealing with my spider problem.

I should really go out and smash all those webs and spiders and uthicas. But I have that thing about killing spiders. What if they attack me and I die on my back porch of multiple venomous spider bits? Even worse, what if some bit of spider or web or uthica ends up actually touching me? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

This might be a job for the husband. Maybe I can just wait it out till he comes home. But what if those uthicas start to hatch in the next few hours . . . ?

9 thoughts on “More Florida Wildlife (Not for the Squeamish)

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  • February 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm
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    I think the snake pictures freaked me out way more than the spider pictures did. But than the spiders were living in your home area. I have been thinking about if it is okay to kill spiders in my home or just removing them outside. Right now the smashing of a bug still wins out. Thanks for all your posts.

  • February 21, 2012 at 9:10 am
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    Wow, Florida! We will have to meet up when I visit my folks in SC. Maybe we can meet in the middle on the GA islands sometime.

    I appreciate wildlife and having grown up in SC I know it can be readily abundant in North America’s more tropical climes. I’ve been bit by black widows three different occasions. Very painful.

    I’ll tell you what I recommend. You need a vacuum with a long extension tube, even better if it has one of the scrubber things at the end. Then you don’t have to reach your hand under or in any place where getting bit is easily accomplished.

    Glad you’ve found your way to the east coast. :)

  • February 16, 2012 at 9:04 pm
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    Having grown up in FL in an old house, I learned to co-exist with some large spiders. My parents wouldn’t let us kill them because they killed cockroaches. The only place I didn’t tolerate them was in the shower. I always inspected the shower before stepping inside it. Good luck and enjoy the sunshine! I miss FL and my family, but I do not miss the roaches, mosquitoes, and venomous snakes.

  • February 16, 2012 at 5:57 pm
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    Oh. My. Gosh. I’m sweating just from reading that post.

  • February 16, 2012 at 7:58 am
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    So I called my husband to confer a few minutes after completing this blog post, and he answered from outside the door, because unbeknownst to me he was planning to work from home for the rest of the day. He conducted an on-the-spot back porch pogrom, and my house is now spider-free. Whew!

  • February 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm
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    Oh, that brown widow looks huge! Would it work to sweep them out? Maybe if you put on long sleeves and pants and socks and gloves you’ll be safe while you, uh, clean the area? I don’t like spiders.

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