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Off-topic Friday: Spiders – just part of the historic charm

I wouldn’t blame you if you chose not to read this column. I’ve known grown men who would rather face a rabid wildcat than a tiny, eight-legged adversary. I myself have been known, when confronted with an arachnid, to squeal at a pitch that can only be heard by dogs.

Unfortunately, despite my spider-related frailty, we live in a three-hundred-year-old house. It’s a lovely house, but – like all old homes – its structure is riddled with the chinks and cracks of age. There are several places in the dining room where you can drop m&m’s between the floorboards and into the cellar. Not that I’ve ever done that. My daughter once commented that she thought the house was held together with dirt. She’s probably right.

Because of the dirt and the cracks and the three hundred years’ worth of  (charming) nooks and crannies, our home is also home to a great many spiders.

I try not to begrudge them their space. After all, my tiny lodgers have probably lived in this house for generations. Surely they have a more credible claim to these old walls than I do. Still, I am the one paying the rent.

Mostly, I abide by the principle of live and let live. When my daughter screams from upstairs that there’s a spider in the shower with her, I tell her that it won’t bother her if she doesn’t bother it. We had one particularly voyeuristic critter who lingered in the corner by the showerhead for two weeks before mysteriously disappearing. I almost missed him. Almost.

There are, however, instances where I have to draw the line.

For instance, the cellar stairs are non-negotiable territory. You might think that I should cede this little-used space to the spiders. After all, the cellarway is dark and musty and seems perfectly suited to a spider’s lifestyle. The problem is that I sometimes forget that you can’t run the toaster and the microwave at the same time. The result of such extravagance is a blown fuse, and a blown fuse means that I have to descend the cellar stairs. I left the spider population in this stairway neighborhood unchecked once, and the resulting baby boom was the stuff of nightmares. If I didn’t regularly sweep the area with my trusty vacuum, I would just have to live without a toaster or a microwave.

The recent incursion in the upstairs bedrooms was another case where I had to put my foot down … or, rather, my slipper.

My daughter and I were reading bedtime stories. Suddenly, my daughter shrieked and pointed at the ceiling. There, skittering its way into position over our heads (perhaps for a better look at the pictures) was a baby spider.

I recently discussed baby spiders with a friend who, like me, has engaged in insect (and, yes, even spider) relocation – humanely capturing and releasing bugs into the backyard. Baby spiders, however, are a problem. They are simply too small to catch in a paper cup. The other problem is that where there is one baby spider, you will probably also find a few hundred of its siblings.

Sadly, this was the case with our story-time spiders. The more we looked, the more we saw. My daughter made the call, “Mom, get the Slipper of Death!” She was right. The situation called for the heavy artillery. I whipped off my right slipper (a ten-year-old Teva flip-flop with a bottom worn so flat that nothing can escape) and went to work.

It took several nights to clear the area. I felt badly for killing all those tiny creatures, but seeing them crawling en masse over the bed triggered a primeval us-or-them survival instinct.

For the most part, the spiders and I live in a state of domestic détente. I hope they understand that I don’t wish them any harm. I know that they serve a very important purpose in the grand scheme of things. But, if they are going to live under my roof, they have to follow my rules, and rule number one is no congregating. One spider I can stomach. More than that, and the Slipper of Death comes out.


Image Credit: e_Monk

This piece was originally published in the Ipswich Chronicle as part of my bi-weekly column.


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  1. Yikes! Cheers! Kaarina

  2. Frances Gollahon

    Once…when I lived in an old house in the woods…I was inside the cellar/garage area and was attempting to push open the solid wood, hinged-on-each-side, garage door.

    It was fairly dark and as I used all my strength to push open the door, a sliver of light reflected into the room and I saw it…them. The entire inside of the door was covered with wolf spiders. You know, those big, jumping monsters that can kick your you-know-what. There must have been 25 on that door. I knew if I let panic have her way and repel me back, that heavy door would slam shut and all 25 of those hairy spiders would sling back on me! So in rapid prayer and composure, I allowed the door to gently close, not disturbing one of them. THEN I HIGHTAILED it out of there. I was Flash Gordon in speed. Shoved newspaper under the interior door to the basement and celebrated my safety. Husband was out of town but guess what he had to deal with when he got home…yikes, icky. True story.

    In another home in the woods one just missed dropping onto the top of my head when I opened the front door. Thank God, if it had gotten into my hair I probably would have beaten my head (thus myself) to death.

  3. Jeevan Jacob John

    We all are afraid of something, aren’t we?

    Perhaps it is a good thing – like you mentioned, survival instincts.

    I also do feel bad when I kill insects. Until I read an article on it, I believed insect would also feel pain (apparently they don’t. So they would also get a “painless” death. But, scientists are still arguing about that).

    Anyways, I do like the idea of releasing them outside (but that might end up being bad – especially if you live in a neighborhood – we don’t want to bother the neighbors, do we? Maybe we do, if we hate them :D).

    • Jeevan Jacob John

      By the way, Jamie, how are you?

      I haven’t been around for a while now, so it good to be back in the blogging world.

      Hope everything is going fine!

    • I try not to think about it too much. Mostly, I just act on instinct. 😉

      Nice to “see” you here again!

  4. Frances Gollahon

    I apologetically kill the sucker and say “I’m sorry but you know you can’t live in my house, it’s mine.”

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