Saturday, October 6, 2007

Um...Is that your pet tarantula?

So I sauntered sleepily into my bathroom in the wee small hours of the morning and found this joker staring me in the face!

Not a happy surprise!

Also not a tarantula. The species is known as the Carolina Wolf spider. I never saw one in my life until I moved into this house 6 years ago. They are so large you can literally hear them walk across a floor! The one in the picture I took is probably a full three inches long including legs and body. It could wrap itself completely around a small egg. I started to slip one under the bowl for perspective, but I chickened out and grabbed the deodorant stick from the counter instead. That's a six cup bowl that buddy is under. That's right - 1.5 quarts!

The first time I saw one I was home alone at night. It was October and I had the lights down low. In the far corner I saw two large green glowing eyes emerge out of the darkness....I kid you not...that's exactly how it happened!!!

They reflected the light like cat eyes. I could see them a full 15 feet away at the opposite end of the room!

I'm really not making that up, check out what Wikipedia says about them, "Their eyes reflect light well, and one way of finding them is to hunt at night using a flashlight strapped to one's forehead so that the light from the flashlight is reflected from their eyes directly back toward its source." Although why anyone would want to go hunting for them at night is beyond me!

I flipped on the bright lights and spotted the largest spider I'd ever laid eyes on indoors that was not part of a science project or museum exhibit. It looked like it belonged in somebody's kid brother's terrarium, but here it was running free across my living room floor. I was too scared to even try to kill it. It looked big enough to fight back! What if I tried to squash it, but it didn't die? All I would succeed in doing is making it angry. Then it could lie in wait for me, or come after me in my sleep!

I did the same thing back then. I put it under a glass bowl, so I could sleep in peace. Needless to say, I called the exterminator the very next day. All I could think was that one day I'd come down my basement stairs, or walk through a dark doorway and find myself tangled up in a huge web with one of these critters in the middle. I was horrified.

The exterminator put my mind at ease by explaining that wolf spiders don't web. They live in underground burrows, sometimes with trap doors. "How do they hunt?" I asked. "They're so big and fast", he said, "they can pretty much chase down and pounce on anything they want to eat." Which is exactly what the Wikipedia article says. That's why they're so named, because they stalk their prey like wolves.

They are solitary, so I don't have to worry about nests and infestations, just the occasional weary wanderer wanting to withdraw from the weather. He said that I could spray chemicals to kill them and try to keep them at bay, but they will come in to the house seeking warmth every fall when they weather starts to cool.

My house is a split foyer and partially underground with a daylight basement. On the front side of the house, there is earth up to the height of the windows. On the back side of the house you can walk out. Because of the design and elevation of my house I will see more of them than someone in a newer development with fewer trees and shrubbery, or someone in a house that lies completely above ground.

The Wikipedia article goes on to say this about them. "Also unique among spiders is their method of infant care. Immediately after the little spiders hatch and emerge from their protective silken case they clamber up their mother's legs and all crowd onto her abdomen."

Unfortunately I had the opportunity to witness this phenomenon first hand as well. A few years ago I was on the landing at my front door when I saw a very large specimen. Its body looked strange...all bumpy and bubbly and kind of diseased. I could not have known what was about to transpire.

I was talking to my then-boyfriend on my cell. I was less afraid of the spiders by this time (they stay pretty much to themselves and are basically harmless if not provoked), so I went to grab the broom to sweep it out the door. I had the short kitchen broom in one hand and the phone in the other and was nonchalantly chatting with my boyfriend about the spider and telling him the story of the first time I heard one walking across the floor and saw the glowing eyes appear out of the darkness, etc.

I had my niece open the solid door and screen door. I touched the spider with the broom and the next thing everyone heard was a chorus of screams. What seemed like hundreds of baby spiders scattered in every imaginable direction across the floor and up the walls! My niece and I were both barefoot and wearing our pajamas and were in deathly fear of being overrun by these eight-legged mini-monsters. (Ever notice how God made the most of the weirdest-looking creatures small? He knew we couldn't handle it - looking at eight-eyed, fanged, and otherwise scary things all the time. Anyway...)

My boyfriend said it sounded like the two of us were being murdered with an axe.

I honestly couldn't stop myself from shrieking. It was like the screams were being ripped from my throat. Seriously, it was one of the freakiest things I have ever seen in real life. It made my skin crawl like the worst kind of creepy scene in a horror movie....but, you know, that's what bug spray is for.

After they died I vacuumed the bodies and recovered my senses and collected myself, knowing it would be a funny story to tell later.

So yeah, every fall I can look forward to sharing me home with the wolf spiders. They don't usually bite and tend to avoid humans, but....eww!

Almost actual size! The real ones are bigger, not smaller!


Anonymous said...

OMG!!!! I'm not usually afraid of spiders but those suckers are big!!! Just make sure you have your bug spray handy. WOW!!! Do you have your exterminator on speed dial??

n'Drea said...

Glowing, green eyes? That's not a spider. That's a monster from some bad Sci-Fi movie!

As MM said, keep that exterminator's number close by. You're gonna need it!

Naturally Sophia said...

Be careful! Spiders can and do bite. Luckily the only thing I have seen around here is what people call "Water Bugs". Equally as large and frightening, except they also fly. Scary!!!

blackrussian said...

MM, me neither. It's funny, I actually have a greater fear of being entangled in spidere's webs than seeing an actual spider. Something about it just feels so sticky-icky, and sometimes they're full of spent, desicated, bug bodies all wrapped up. Ew! It's THE GROSSEST THING!!!

But, yeah, these guys are way too big! That's why I had to do research on them, so I would know whether I SHOULD be afraid.

n'drea, who are you tellin'? I slept with one eye open THAT night!

I haven't had the exterminator back since I first moved into the house. I'm sort of anti-chemical. I have bad reactions to the poisons and to me it's just not worth it.

I kill bugs with swatters and shoes and rolled up newspapers. If I find ants (a HUGE problem in southern summers, no matter how clean you are!), I wipe down their trails with bleach and use other remedies that don't include bug spray.

But I DO keep it on hand for emergencies!

Once I found out they're not poisonous and the invasion is seasonal, I was kind of okay with it. I really only see them for about 4 weeks or so.

For the most part, we respect each other.

They scurry away when they see me coming. I let ot the occasional gasp...

I'm not too TOO afraid of spiders, and because these are burrowing spiders, they stay really low to the ground.

I don't have to worry about finding them in my bed or in my cabinets.

Almost all of my shoes have open toes. I shake out my sneakers and slides and clogs before putting them on, but I've never seen one inside.

I killed a smaller one with a shoe earlier today, 'cause it had an attitude and wanted to stare me down. That was unusual, so he had to die!

Believe me Sophia, I don't mess with them. You should see the fangs on them. The spiders are big enough that you CAN see the fangs while they're walking around as clearly as you can see the legs. In fact, they're almost as thick as the legs, just shorter, so I'm sure a bite would HURT! (AND leave a mark.)

But like I said, they always scurry away and don't seem to hide in clothes or sheets or shoes. So since their behaviors don't seem to put me at high risk for being bitten, I just haven't felt the need to bring poisonous chemicals into my house just because they are following their instincts.

Their ancestors were here first and they're not a real threat to me, so I choose non-violence.

Except when there are HUNDREDS of babies and thousands of EYES and LEGS. Then I just CAN'T take it!

Sogolocs said...

I can't wait to try that flashlight trick. You are so comical. I pray I never see one of those spiders, or any kind of spider. Keep up the good fight....

Renea said...

Those are some big ass spiders! I'm not fond of chemicals either, but I would make an exception if I had these houseguests every year. Is there any way to keep them out of the house?

Aya said...

Geesh Louise, what an awful looking creature you trapped. I don't know what I would have done. Thank God I have never seen a creature like that where I live. I just hate spiders.