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Interview with Banana Spider
How do you feel about spiders?
You know - those bug-bodied, spindly-legged arachnids with eight hairy legs? My Hubbuddy, Sweetsusieg, challenged me to write about an interview with the Banana Spider. Imagine! She wants me to interview and write about an insect – a bug – a SPIDER! Ugh. These are her actual words: "I think I would be very interested in hearing what fellow Hubber, drbj would have to say were she to “interview” one of these lovely Banana Spiders! (hint-hint)."
Those who know me are aware that it is difficult, nay, impossible for me to resist a challenge. That’s how I fractured nine ribs in 2005. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. And if you recall Stan Fletcher’s weird Hubpages contests challenging fellow writers to write about weird subjects, then you may remember how I rose to the challenge, not once but twice, with my hubs: “Psychic Vegetables and the Things They Have Told Me” and “Why Everyone Should Own a Goat or Cow or Pig.”
So, keeping in mind my relentless reluctance to resist challenges, here is my Interview with Banana Spider.
Robert De Niro in "Taxi Driver" 1976
Crème d’brulee Recipe
Ingredients for 4 servings
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups cream
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries
Directions: Preheat oven to 350° F degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until slightly thickened. Gradually stir in sugar and salt. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat before cream comes to a boil. Slowly stir into egg mixture. Add vanilla. Divide the mixture into 4 ramekins and place them in a baking pan. Fill the pan with water about half way up the ramekins to make a water bath. Bake for 45-60 minutes until firm. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle the top with sugar and carmelize with a kitchen torch. Garnish with raspberries or strawberries.
Tip: Brown sugar may be substituted for the granulated sugar, but you may want to increase the amount to 1 tablespoon per serving.
me – Excuse me, miss. Are you a genuine Banana Spider?
Banana Spider – Are YOU talking to me???
Are you talking to ME??? (Performing a spidery Robert De Niro impression)
me – Yes, Miss Spider. I wondered if I could interview you for a Hubpages article I am writing.
Banana Spider – Call me Goldie. And It’s not Miss, you know. It’s Mrs. Even though my husband is no longer with me.
me – Oh, sorry, to hear that.
Goldie – Don’t be. Yummy! He was so delicious.
me – You ate him? (Incredulous)
Goldie – Well, that’s what we female spiders often do, you know.
I can talk with you for only about thirty minutes and then I have to run. I promised to meet Miss Muffett for lunch.
me – The Miss Muffett? of Mother Goose fame?
Goldie – None other. You know the rhyme: “Little Miss Muffet, Sat on her tuffet, eating her crème d’brulee.
Along came a spider, Who sat down beside her, and frightened Miss Muffet away.”
me – I thought the rhyme was: “eating her curds and whey.”
Goldie – If you ever tasted curds and whey, you, too, would prefer crème d’brulee.
Arachnid Addendum: Curds and whey refer to the lumps and liquid found in cottage cheese.
Crème d’brulee is a delicious rich custard dessert topped with hard caramel.
Goldie – Now - what would you like to know?
me – Let’s start with your family.
Goldie – My family name is Nephila and we are a genus of araneomorph spiders.
Some folks call us Banana Spiders because our yellow bodies resemble tiny bananas, but we are also known as Golden Silk Orb-Weavers - that’s how I got my name, Goldie.
In some parts of the country we are called Giant Wood Spiders.
Arachnid Addendum: Over 700 species of spiders reside in Florida.
Books about Spiders
me – What is the origin of that name, Nephila?
Goldie – It’s derived from ancient Greek and means “fond of spinning.” We are noted for the impressive webs we weave. In North America we are also known as Writing Spiders because of the zigzag patterns we weave into our webs. So we have something in common.
me – You must be referring to your writing/weaving skill. Because humans do not devour their mates. Nasty divorces do not count.
So, why do female spiders indulge in this cannibalistic practice?
Goldie – Male spiders are relatively tiny so larger females like myself have no difficulty eating our puny mates when dinner doesn’t arrive.
I like to think of the practice being called – instead of “The Man Who Came to Dinner” – “The Man Who Became the Dinner.” (Giggles)
Arachnid Addendum: Speaking of web weaving, who was the author of this passage: “O, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!”
Did you answer William Shakespeare? Give yourself a gold star if you gave the correct answer – Sir Walter Scott.
Golden Silk Orb-Weaver / Banana Spider
me – How did you get the name, Golden Silk Orb-Weaver? You are very conspicuous with your colors of yellow, red, brown, black and white on your body, but not gold.
Goldie – The gold refers to the color of the yellow silk we spin. It shines like gold in the sunshine.
me – How big do you get when grown?
Goldie – We females reach sizes of 1 ½ to 3 inches not including our long, long legs which may be up to 5 inches. Males are usually less than ½ inch.
Arachnid Addendum: The largest specimen ever found was about 3 inches (from Queensland) and was able to catch and feed on a small finch.
me – Are you found only in the United States, Central and South America?
Goldie – No, we live in countries all over the world including the warmer regions of Australia, Asia and Africa. I’m a country girl myself – I grew up in the Okefenokee Swamp in Florida.
Arachnid Addendum: Nephila spiders are the oldest surviving genus of spiders. A fossilized specimen was found estimated to be 165 million years old.
me – Are you poisonous?
Goldie – Our venom is potent but not lethal to humans. It has a neurotoxic effect similar to that of the black widow spider. But our venom is not nearly as powerful. Our bite causes local pain, redness, and blisters – I call it a spider hickey – that normally disappear within 24 hours.
me – What is your favorite food?
Goldie – We eat flies, bees, wasps, moths, butterflies and barbecued ribs. Just kidding about the ribs. But unlike humans, we do not chew our food. We inject venom which ultimately turns the insides of the prey caught in our web into liquid. Then we just suck it up. No chewing each bite of food 23 times for us.
Spider Silk Stronger than Saran Wrap
me – Your webs are marvels of engineering.
Goldie – The circular orb portion of our web can be more than three feet across with support strands extending many more feet. We prefer building our webs at the edges of forests, in gardens, on fences or even building overhangs.
When the weather is rainy and windy, sometimes we dismantle the lower part of the web to allow the wind to flow through the opening without breaking the web. We are experts at building websites. (Laughs)
Arachnid Addendum: Small black and silver spiders called Argyrodes are kleptoparasites that may infest our webs to feed from our captured prey. They are uninvited guests that frequently force us to rebuild or abandon our webs.
me – I have always wondered. How do you keep from sticking to the web as you weave it?
Goldie – We manufacture the silk for our webs in our own bodies. To form a web, we jump from one branch to another.
Some of the strands are sticky and moist in order to catch our food. But other strands are dry so we can travel on them without sticking.
Then we sit in the center of the web looking like a miniature Yoda with one leg touching a strand.
If we feel the strand jiggle, much like a fisherman with his line, we know we have caught a bug.
If the insect is very heavy and could break our web, then we cut it loose.
But we waste nothing. We eat and digest the broken silk strands to use in rebuilding.
Brazilian Wandering Spider / Banana Spider
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me – Who are your enemies?
Goldie – Our biggest threats are frogs, toads, lizards, birds, centipedes and bigger spiders – they are all predators. Humans are enemies, too, as well as storms, cold weather and fungus.
Arachnid Addendum: A unique cloth woven from the golden silk of over 1 million Golden Silk Orb-Weaver spiders is on exhibit in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City.
Japanese fishermen on the Pacific Ocean coast often remove Nephila webs and form them into balls, which are thrown into the water. There they unfold and are used as nets to catch bait fish.
Goldie – Would you like to interview a genuine Banana Spider?
me – I thought I was interviewing a genuine Banana Spider, Goldie. Isn’t that what you are?
Goldie – That’s what many people call us although our preferred name is Golden Silk Orb-Weaver. Let me introduce you to the real thing – the Brazilian Banana Spider from Latin America. Wanda, come over here, please.
Wanda – como e que; bom te conhecer. How are you? Nice to meet you.
Goldie – drbj wants to interview a genuine Banana Spider. Do you have a few minutes to spare? Your photo and comments will appear on the Internet. If it goes viral, you could be famous.
Wanda – Well, I got places to go and people to bite but I can spare a few.
me – Obrigada. Pleased to meet you. I’ve been talking to Goldie and she tells me that in North America her genus is called a Banana Spider but is really a Golden Silk Orb-Weaver. Are you a genuine Banana Spider?
Wanda – Some people call us that because we often stow away to North America and parts unknown hidden in a stalk of bananas. But we are actually the Brazilian Wandering Spider. That’s how I got my name, Wanda. Our family name is Phoneutria.
me – What does Phoneutria mean?
Wanda – It’s Greek for “murderess.” We don’t have lily-white reputations. (Spoken with pride). The 2010 “Guinness World Records” names us as the world’s most venomous spider. We can grow to have a body more than 2 inches long with a leg span of up to 5 ½ inches
me – Why are you called the Wandering Spider?
Wanda – Because we wander the jungle floor at night instead of building a web. During the day we hide inside termite mounds, under logs and rocks and in banana stalks.
Wanderers is an appropriate name because we often wander without fear into populated areas and search for dark places to hide – like Vlad Dracula – during daylight. Our favorite spots are inside houses, outhouses, garages, cars, log piles, boxes, shoes, and clothing.
Although we do not have films and television like the educational program,"Real Housewives of New Jersey," we do not lack for entertainment. You should see the way people jump and scream and carry on when they find us unexpectedly.
Arachnid Addendum: In Brazil the wandering Spider is called “aranhas-armadeiras” or armed spiders.
Although the Brazilian Wandering Spider / Banana Spider is the most toxic, more deaths occur from the bites of the black widow and brown recluse spider.
me – Do you reside in the U.S.?
Wanda – We make our home in most of the warmer climate countries of Central and South America. But we do get to take the tourist trip when we stow away on banana stalks.
The Erection Effect
Goldie – Tell drbj what makes you so unique – you know – the “erection effect.”
me – Oh, come on, you’re pulling my leg.
Wanda – No, it’s another bodily appendage that is involved. (Goldie and Wanda grab each other and laugh hysterically)
me - What on earth is the “erection effect?”
Wanda – Our venom can cause priapism in humans of the male persuasion.
me – You’re kidding me, right? Priapism is prolonged erection of the penis.
Wanda – I kid you not. The good news is that our bite can cause erections that are uncomfortable but can last for many hours. The bad news is that this sometimes results in impotence.
Arachnid Addendum:As you might expect, a component of this spider venom is currently being studied for use in erectile dysfunction treatments.
me – Thank you, Goldie. Obrigada, Wanda, for your erudite explanations. Now I know there are two types of Banana Spiders: the Golden Silk Orb-Weaver also known as the Giant Wood Spider or Writing Spider who favors Florida living.
And the Brazilian Wandering Spider who lives in Latin America and unleashes a very powerful venom which produces a verrrrry interesting effect. Ciao, my arachnid allies. Go forth and spin . . . or wander.
© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2011, 2014. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So"
Amos, Jonathan. “Fossilized spider biggest on record.” BBC News, April 2011
Bucheri, Wolfgang and Eleanor Buckley. Venomous Animals and their Venoms, vol. III.
Cameron H.D. “An etymological dictionary of North American spider genus names.” In: Ubick, D., Paquin, P., Cushing, P.E., Roth, V. (Eds.), Spiders of North America: an identification manual. The American Arachnological Society, 2005