Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Red and Black

Thank you Dr. Grumpy for this post! He mentioned the Latin genus, Latrodectus, in one of his posts (gotta watch what he calls his patients!)

Latrodectus is the genus of spiders that the black widow spider belongs to. The spider is found, according to the National Geographic website, in the temperate parts of the world (There! Now you can rule out Antarctica as the home of Ms. Donna). While the hour-glass shape in red is common where I am, there are some widows with mottled red-and-black skin.

A few weeks ago, my 79-year-old mother mentioned that there were some “pretty” red-and-black spiders in the yard. I am NOT a spider fan, so I didn’t go to look.

I came close to one while doing a painting project. I had taken a flower stand to a corner of Mom’s fenced back yard to paint and nearly bumped into one of the “pretty” spider’s raggedy webs. I looked and the occupant was complete with red-and-black markings. In the shape of an hourglass.

I was 90 percent sure I knew what Ms. Prettyspider was, but snapped a photo w/ my phone and trundled off to the library to be sure. While I don’t like spiders, I know most are harmless and do good things in the garden. I did not want to kill something benign and useful.

Yep. Black widow. Latrodectus mactans. While most sites say the bite is not deadly and the spider will do almost anything to avoid conflict, my two cats prowl the yard while I am out, my mother’s dog roams the fenced yard, and my mother goes out there. My brother’s kids will be in the yard when they come to visit.

In short, Ms. Prettyspider had to go. And checking the yard, I found five of her sisters had set up shop on the property. I didn’t declare war; they did.

Armed with a rolled-up magazine (the thick, glossy kind) and a can of bug spray, I covered myself head to toe, pant legs in socks, rubber gloves over long sleeves. Four of the six spiders were swatted; the other two fled and got zapped with bug spray. Better living through chemistry, indeed. I sprayed the webs. Five of the webs had egg cases; I didn’t find an egg case at the last web. I hope I didn’t miss something.

If I did, there will be a sequel to the story. And there will be more spiders.

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