Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Huntresses Become the Hunted

For a little over a week now, I've realized that I've got a bit of a problem with black widow spiders. In that amount of time, I've killed over a dozen.

Thankfully, all of them I've found outside. In fact, I found the first by accident, taking out the garbage one night. I succeeded in killing it with a combination of Lysol and He-man stick...and then I ran into a massive wolf spider. I've also seen some other strange spiders lately, large ones--including this enormous, fat brown one that I think is a female (seeing as just a few hours ago it appeared that a skinny, translucent tan male was courting her). A summer vacation spot for spiders?

While I love spiders, and know full well that their presence is a benefit to man, and while I also know that black widows are extremely shy and rarely bite anyone, my own preferred tastes mean that any possible threat, no matter how small, is pretty much intolerable. Enter the War of the Spiders!

It's always been great for me, if I have a certain task to accomplish, to translate it into a war allegory of some sort. Launching a merciless, all-out attack on a neighborhood arachnid is easily translated into said terminology. Therefore I hath embarked upon a massive assault, and I will kill any and all of them I find. Take no prisoners! reality, just about every night I've been going out long after dark with my trusty Maglite and hunting them down, one by one. Not as glamorous as a mighty war, but then again, if it was a mighty big would the spiders be for me to have to wield swords or guns against them? Indeed, I shudder at the thought. (Imagine if massive insects and arachnids overran the world! Eeek!) If you're a fellow man and if it floats your boat, just hate them temporarily because they eat their men when they're done with them.

My methods of murder have evolved. I'm finding that Lysol spray is fairly ineffective--they can still get away too easily before I can hurt them enough. Shoes are too bulky for the tight corners of the spiders' preferred residence, so I split the end of a long stick to make it work better, and I've just been using that to attack them.

So, here on this blog you'll often see me post about issues of security, safety, and self-defense (one of my most cross-posted blogs is WARSKYL, after all). No matter how small, why not concern yourself with all matters of safety?

Here are a few tips I've learned in the past week (plus earlier knowledge learned through more academic channels which has aided me).

- Black widows are amazingly easy to spot. Hunt for them at night, with a good flashlight, and you can easily spot these little nocturnal critters. They can see the light, but with a good white light you can easily see their shiny black bodies and red hourglass on the ventral abdomen (and they usually make it so much easier by hanging upside down, just for us!).

- If you don't see the spiders themselves, you can recongnize their webs easily. Black widows spin very distinct webs in a very erratic, zig-zag formation (pretty much patternless). The strands will be thick and very strong--you can actually hear them break and snap. Try to learn the look of the web as you go along, and you can use this knowledge to trim down your property's population (Or I suppose you could try the internet, books, or even a local museum with a live specimen--that was my first full-blown black widow web exposure.)

- If you or your light scares one into cover, or if you find one where you can't get to it, try this trick. Find a small insect or such (I am currently using ants) and drop it into the widow's web. Be careful here; your light will likely keep her from coming out to fetch her newfound catch. I usually like to move the light to where only a dim glow is cast on her, wait for her to move out towards my bait, and then assault her. (A riskier method is using tweezers, which, if touched to a web as they are vibrating, can mimic the wingbeat of a flying insect. I once used this on a black widow years ago, and it worked. Just remember that you have to get close for it to work, and tie up one of your hands. Using live bait is preferable.)

- Find a weapon that works well for you. As stated before, I'm using a long stick with a split end for now (split end so I can get into the nooks and crannies better). Perhaps you might like some sort of pesticide (I prefer to keep pesticides far away from my home), a shoe, or perhaps you like the Mobile Infantry's approach in Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers (the flamethrowers). (Just kidding, folks. I believe that is called arson.) I like to keep my distance, yet have a deadly tool that is mobile and versatile. I'm really liking my stick now. Anyone ever tried Airsoft?

- Safety first. I'm always checking around my feet and body if I'm in a spot (say, under rafters, near plants, etc.) where the battlefield is fully encompassing. It is up to you protect yourself. It's better to let one get away than risk her nipping you, and it's be better for her to escape in the long run as well, where you might get her another day. (Try returning to the exact same spot the next night. I've killed many prior escapees this way.) And of course, safety does not mean paranoia. Jumping, squirming and squealing, will not help you in your massacre. Perhaps it's just me, but if your only thought is to shout, "THE BUGGER'S GOTTA DIE! BUGGER'S GOTTA DIE!" as you swipe at it haphazardly, you probably will not be very successful. Knowledge of your enemy is key, and it will win you many battles.

- Take out those egg sacs! They will appear white, or perhaps a dirty, off-white, and fluffy, like a tiny cotton ball. Inside could be hundreds of the unborn spiders, and while they will likely "balloon" to a different location, if you're in the game of extermination....

Of course, I must blatantly cover my butt and remind everyone that I am not legally liable should anyone actually try any of my little tips and get bitten.... This post was mostly for fun. Hunt at your own risk!

And after all of this, I must ask if anyone is more accustomed to the spiders than I am and knows how to ward them off. I'm especially concerned with indoor invasions. I can pick them off one by one, but does anyone know a way to frighten them away, inside and/or outside? Or how about anything that eats them? I'll abide them outside on occasion. In me and my family's bed? I don't think so.

Hope this helps, hope someone can help me, and happy hunting to anyone who must fight the beasties!



olde.fashioned said...

YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK YUCK! (That's about the spiders, of course, not your enjoyable post!) *halo*

I hope it goes without saying how much I appreciate your spider-killing efforts???

WildWeazel said...

an aerosol can of WD-40 and a lighter is THE way to take out one of those monsters, black widow or not

Odorica said...

Salutari din Romania !

Johann said...

don't have any of those little beasties in my area

Briar said...

I'm glad we don't have many poisonous spiders down here in NZ!

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog