Spiders. Scary or just misunderstood?
Common Spiders Of The British Isles.
It's that time of year again, when the nights begin to draw in, and people are beginning to cuddle up on the sofa, closing the windows because of the chill air. Or maybe going out in the twilight dusk, for a meal, you know normal things that you do at this time of the year. But not me. oh, no.
I have spent the last three evenings rushing around my house, brandishing a mop, doing the one thing that many women, and a few men are scared to do. The sounds that you can hear from the quiet of my home consist of a few squeeks, a few yeeks and and the occasional scream. Followed quickly by the thump of the mop hitting Terra fir ma. Yes it's that month of the year once again.
Now I know there's a few of you out there that will say, don't be silly, they won't hurt you, blah blah blah. Okay, so you come and pick them up then!
I can't help being terrified at the sight of a big brown or black monster charging across the floor, usually in my direction, when I have just settled down to watch television, And the funny thing is, it always seems to be when I am alone. Which is just typical. Last night I managed to surround it with lots of books and pieces of cardboard, hemming it in, so when it decided to run, it could only go one way. toward me, but this time I was armed and ready, aha.
Come on then you little monster, I'm not scared of you, I said, when actually I was shaking from head to toe.
How stupid is that? Anyway, eventually it was on the mop, hopefully still alive, as I don't like killing any creature, and being launched over my balcony. I just hope there was nobody down below. I don't think there was, I didn't hear any screams, thankfully.
Anyway, in the cold light of day, I decided that I wasn't going to be beaten, and clutching my camera and notebook, I decided that to stop fearing something, I would confront it, and read up a bit about them.
And I was fascinated.
Some of the species of spider are so pretty it amazed me. Walking along the river, looking at the hedgerows, I came across some fascinating small spiders, living within the leaves and casting their webs across the small twigs and flowers. The morning light made the webs shine, and the dew was still wet on them, making it look like white frosting.
Turning to my spider book, I discovered that these were called Garden cross spiders, or more commonly known as orb spiders. Araneus diadematus is the Latin name. They build a wheel like web. The female has an abdomen the size of a pea. and the colours are pretty amazing too. They can be red, yellow brown and orange. and the abdomen always has a design int the shape of a white cross. There is also one called the four spotted orb, which is slightly darker.
After spending about ten minutes staring at this one, and getting a few strange looks from strangers, I was quite pleased with myself. Obviously these weren't as scary as the common house spider, and more importantly they couldn't jump out of the web and run after me!
In fact by this time, I was beginning to be quite fond of it. I think the reason was, that I realised that they were very clever little things, the way they made their web was amazing. They mended and weaved, and if there was any sagging web, they just spun a bit more and repaired it. I left before it ate it's dinner. I wasn't quite ready for that.
Evidently there is also another orb web spider called the Wasp spider. It has a fat bottom and black yellow and white stripes across it's back. It's not very common though. Evidently it has only been here for a few decades. it's Latin name is Argiope bruennich.
Another spider that came across was the Nursery web spider. I had seen one before, they tend to stay on the ground and hunt among the long grass and hedges in the countryside. Their body length is p to 1.5cm and they have a long leg span. They look smooth, and are a dark butter colour, with a pale beige stripe down the centre of their backs, and a white stripe down their sides. The two sets of legs at the front and the two at the back are held together, so it looks as though they only have four legs, until you get up close. I did, but not that close! Reading the book, it said that the male spider offers the female an insect meal wrapped in silk before he mates with her. This stops her eating him. Nice!
By this time I was beginning to quite like the sweet little things. Well, I was on the way to liking them.
Not quite there yet, though.
One day in my kitchen, I can remember jumping in sheer horror, when I reached down to pick up my potato container that I had placed on the floor the day before, and realised that attached to the back of it was a disgusting alien type thing that as soon as it saw me it began to vibrate to such an extent that it frightened the life out of me! I honestly believed that it was going to jump up on me like something out of the film Alien. I was terrified! I can honestly say that I have never seen a spider do that before.
This turned out to be the Daddy long legs spider.Pholcus phalangiodes. This clever little thing will start to vibrate and shake it's web energetically to such an extent that it becomes a blur. This is to stop it being eaten. Since I have discovered what it is, I am now quite blasé about it. In fact I have got one above my head right now as I type this. Brave eh?(I'll take it out later). I am sure most people will know what this looks like, but just to make sure I will describe it. It has long gangly hair like legs, and a small body, it usually lives under the stairs or in my case, the corner of the living room. He or she sits on an almost invisible tangle of silk. The adult female will carry her eggs around with her, and she clutches them like a bunch of grapes. If you see one, blow on the web, it is fascinating to watch them vibrate.
I dont't know about you, but the idea of going into the garden shed, makes my heart pound and I walk in trying to look at the floor, the walls and the stuff stored in there all at the same time. If something moves, even if it is a leaf blowing in the wind, I turn and sprint up the garden, straight indoors, and don't come out until I've calmed down. I know I'm a coward, it's so liberating to admit that! But what I was going to say was, in the corner of the shed is usually lurking a rather gangly spider, that seems to wobble as it sprints towards you. And It can run fast. (But not as fast as me!) It is the Harvestman. Brazilian name, giro mundo, which means speed. That's my nick name from now on! These spiders appear towards the end of the summer onwards. There family name is called Opiliones. There are 23 species in Britain. The funny thing is, they are not of the spider family at all, even thought they have eight legs, but they do come from the Arachnid family, like scorpions and ticks. They have no poison glands, they are not able to produce silk, and they have a button like body, which is singular, unlike the normal spiders. So, as they are not theoretically spiders, I have no reason to run. Much.
Have you ever leaned on a wall, and realised that something is moving right by your fingers? yep, so have I. This is a mesh web spider, they live in holes on walls and fences. They line their holes with a silk lining, and their front doors with a small net like web. This is the trap that catches the prey. The insects that fly or crawl into it, get trapped. The spider catches it easily.
So we come to the final spider. That horrible nasty smelly thing that rushed across my floor, and scares me half to death. The common house spider. It is one of the largest in Europe, (yeah, I know!). Their webs are secretive and triangular in shape. I have just discovered that they have small leg like limbs near the head, that are tipped with clubs, they resemble boxing gloves! Oh, great. Now I have to turn into Muhammad Ali, just to fight the horrible thing! Evidently, these are like sexual glands filled with sperm, that are only possessed by the males! ( That's why men take up boxing, I can see the connection! at least now I know where to kick them, the spiders, not the men!)
So, there you are.
Fascinating eh? so now you know that when you are legging it out of the back door, scared to death looking like a screaming banshee, at least you'll have some sort of dignity by being able to name them, when you calm down. Oh, and I thought I'd better tell you, the photo's are not mine. I am not that brave.
Sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs, or spiders, bite.
Other Animal Stories by Nell
- Snowball, The fat Albino Hedgehog
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