My mother didn’t raise scaredy cats. I don’t mind worms or mice or bats or frogs or bugs. I am not a great friend of snakes, preferring to give them a wide berth and some respect, if that’s considered a chink in the all-tolerable armor than so be it. My mother on the other hand would pick up a garter snake like nobody’s business.
Some of my friends who hang around my house:
I am a fan of spiders. So when one moved into my office through the unscreened room air conditioner, I decide to let it stay. I rationalized that it would capture and eat any mosquitoes that tried to enter the same way, and would therefore keep my house bug free, unless of course you considered the original arachnid. It stayed in its corner of the office and I’d say ‘hi’ once in a while, but we basically ignored each other. I think it lived mostly behind a painting though it surprised me once by popping out from inside my lamp shade. After the initial scare, we went back to our regular routine.
We had human visitors for a few weeks and I neglected my office and my spider friend knowing it was entirely capable of fending for itself though my husband had added a screen to the intake/take out vent hose. As the visiting crowd thinned, I headed back to my office and my helper spider. Oh dear lord, what’s happened here. The sheer quantity of spiders that had taken up residence creeped me out just a bit more than I expected. I was after all unwilling to allow my office to be sublet to a dozen pals I had neither invited, nor pre-qualified. A dozen large and small spiders stood their ground. They thought they’d claimed the room by adverse possession.
In Massachusetts adverse possession can occur when someone/something inhabits a spot openly, notoriously and without consent for 20 years. Given that the average orb weaver spider has a lifespan of 12 months and the average American lives about 79 years, I’m trying to figure out if they meet the criteria in spider years. I’ve always been a math-phobe if not an arachnophobe, believing that more harm has been done in the name of mathematics, than ever through spiders. Tentatively I tried doing the math. I’d only neglected my office for one month, (1/12 the lifespan of a spider). I am reasonably sure that they would have had to be here for 4 months to make a legitimate claim. And there is another catch, I had given permission for the first dweller to stay so the math would need to be calculated against the second inhabitant. But I still value spiders, and know they wouldn’t thrive in the office if other tiny bugs were not making it through the screen.
I went into eviction, if not extinction, mode. Our pet rabbits live on the top floor where we also sleep, so toxic pesticides were ruled out. There were too many to catch and release so I opted to research natural spider repellants. I learned that spiders don’t like, garlic, peppermint, and citrus. I plucked several mint leaves from my herb garden and strew them about the window and ac unit. The spiders showed no response, unless maybe they were making mini mojitos when I was gone. The thought of a garlic office disgusted me so that was out. Next was citrus. I ate a lot more clementines and left the peels in the office, and ultimately purchased an orange spray. Nothing! I grabbed my Windex Spray spray bottle remembering how in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, that cured about every ill. They still partied on the ceiling. Still too many to catch and release, what could be done?
One day in sheer frustration after a spider squatter bungied down to my desk, I snapped. I grabbed and rolled up a prized newspaper featuring three articles I wrote and I smooshed it. With the paper defiled I killed the rest. I who excels at frog slalom on slick roads on rainy fall evenings to avoid killing one frog had entered a phase of life where I rode that slippery slope down – I was the spider killer. The thought hurt my critter loving heart.
The office was quiet, spider free, for a week or two, then one crept back in. I trapped it in a recycling bound water bottle and had my husband promise to release it outside. He said he did. But if you ever watched the Earwig episode on the old tv series Night Gallery you can expect what happened next…… it was a girl. A “with spider” girl. And in a few short days a dozen tiny micro mini spiders started to become visible as they grew, and grew. They came back to reclaim their family homestead, (and avenge their mother’s death?). As every murderer says in every tawdry murder movie, I thought “The made me do it. If only they listened, if they’d stopped taunting me, they would all be alive today.
How do I feel about the new squatters? Am I feeling a murderous rage? How many catch and release spiders can I rehome? How will I know if I caught them all? What will I do next?
NOTES: The orb weavers here live happily on my deck.
If you are interested in reading about the pursuit of an amorous toad for its human love (me) read this Finding a Frog, er, Toad to Kiss
(c) text and images by Alison Colby-Campbell