"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Yeah.  Arachnophilophobia.  Or is it Misarachnophilia?  You see, I have a love/hate relationship with spiders.  I have no problem working outside and having all kinds of bees buzzing around me.  Over the years, I've noticed that honeybees especially, could not care less that I'm working around them, as long as I don't make any overly aggressive moves toward them.  Carpenter bees and bumblebees and most wasps don't really pay much attention to me either.  I won't let them build nests too close to the house though.  I don't mind letting a full grown praying mantis crawl on my bare arm.

Wolf Spider

But spiders give me the creeps.  Discovering a spider crawling on my clothing can make me dance like I'm at the end of a taser gun.  I guess that's because at least 99 percent of all spiders you can find in this area have venom. I've been stung by honeybees, although I don't recall it happening since I was in my teens.  Last year, some yellowjackets built a nest in the strawbale that the zucchini was growing in, and I didn't discover it until I went to prop the bale upright as it was collapsing from decay.  I shoved my bare left arm against the bale while using my right hand to position a large log under it.  Suddenly it felt like a hundred burning darts had punctured my arm.  I was in agony for several hours.  The following day there was not a hint of evidence that I'd ever been stung.  I still hate the little %^&* buggers.

When we posted here before about beneficial insects in the garden, we completely forgot to mention spiders, but of course, spiders are not insects.  They are in another whole class by themselves.  The class arachnida.  Ticks and mites are also in this class and I don't much like them either, although they don't seem quite as scary.  If it were not for the venom thing, we would love spiders.  We don't kill spiders outside the living quarters around here if it is practical not to do so.  That's because spiders are so much more effective at killing the truly bad bugs that we don't want around here.  Spiders don't hunt us humans.  They don't want to suck our blood. They especially don't want to eat any of our precious plants.  All they want to do is either hunt down and capture other bugs or set elaborate traps to capture them.

If spiders are not an example of intelligent design, then such a thing does not exist.  It would be amazing if all spiders only spun one kind of silk and all of them made the same kind of webs.  Nothing could be further from the facts.  Most people think of spider webs as the typical two-dimensional, spiral pattern screen created to catch flying insects.  It should boggle the mind that a tiny creature that never had a course in engineering knows that anchoring only three points creates a flat plane of stability upon which to build such a net. Then they may place more anchor lines for added strength, but always in the proper position to maintain a flat plane.  A spider web with droplets of dew in the tall grass looking like a diamond encrusted hair net is a beautiful sight.  That web is designed with two very different kinds of silk. The radial arms are of a non-sticky kind that the spider knows are the safe lines to run along.  The spiral strands are made from a very sticky formula even though they come out of the very same spinnerets.  Some of the silk that the spider spins has very little to no elasticity  when it needs a strong cable.  But the sticky spiral strands have a chemical structure that lets them stretch quite a bit without breaking.  All the better to enhance the tangling effect on the prey.
A Golden Orb Spider

When I lived in Florida, even up in the North Central area right on the famous Suwannee river, we used to spend a lot of time in the woods when the weather permitted.  Once in a while you would come to a spot in the woods and if you weren't paying enough attention you might walk into something that might make you lose control of your bladder.  We were squirrel hunting one time in the fall.  I was talking to my hunting partner and walking with my head sideways when I ran my face right into what felt like very light fishing line stretched across the trees. It made me stop and jerk away.  It was the bottom part of a gigantic web of the golden orb spider.  The web was built between two pine trees about 20 feet apart.  The spiral part was about six feet in diameter, and right there in the middle of the nest was the spider.  It looked very similar to the picture, except the abdomen had large black bands across the yellow. In full spread, the spider was at least 5 inches long from foot tip to foot tip, or however you say it.  I've never seen a spider so big since then.  And I don't want to.  Back then I didn't think about conservation the way I do now and I dispatched the beast with a blast from my .410 shotgun.

Funnel web spiders build something entirely different.  These spiders are very scary to me because they are so venomous.  It makes sense that they are, since their web is not designed to do any actual catching of prey.  Like the spiral web, it serves as home, but that's the only similarity.  The funnel style is an elaborate surveillance network.  That cave like opening that is very apparent in the picture is just visible enough to get your attention.  The vast majority of the funnel web spider's web stretches far beyond that opening and is very fine and delicate.  The spider sits hidden inside it's little lair reading and interpreting the signals that get sent down the line from creatures that are touching it's amazing array of sensor wires.    The spider can tell approximately how big the insect is and probably has it encoded in its DNA to be able to identify the exact species based on its movements.  When the prey gets close enough to the entrance, the spider darts out and injects a very powerful and lethal dose of poison and then drags the helpless insect back into the hole for dinner.  I can go outside right now and find a couple of funnel web nests in my straw bale garden if I want to.

Atrax Robustus  G'day, mate!

I'm just glad we don't have something on the same danger level as the Sydney Funnel-web Spider from Australia.  This little guy is considered one of the three most dangerous spiders in the world due to it's venom's toxin level.  This spider can kill you.  Note the fangs in the picture.

Brown recluse, Loxosceles reclusa

The most common spider that I see in my garden is the wolf spider.  They don't seem to build webs of any kind.  They crawl all over in the garden and tend to blend into their surroundings, only becoming visible when disturbed enough to move to safety.  They chase down and capture their prey, so they should be good for the garden; not waiting for the bad insects to come to them.  Their venom is supposed to be only painful and irritating, but not having any long lasting effects.  This is in great contrast to the spider that informed people fear most; the brown recluse or Loxosceles reclusa.  This spider's venom is so bad it causes necrosis in the flesh where it bites. It causes the skin, fat, and even muscle tissue to die.  In the positive sense, the poison tends to stay localized to the bite area, but that just means it's not likely to kill you.  Yes, you could die from a Loxosceles bite, but it would be due to the secondary infection, such as gangrene or staph.

W A R N I N G ! ! ! 

Before you scroll down any farther, I must warn you that the pictures below are graphic.  They show the results of bites from the Loxosceles or what is also known as the fiddle head spider.  If you are easily grossed out by such things, this is where you will want to exit the article or scroll past it very fast.

 Loxosceles is also known as the fiddle head spider.

The first picture shows the initial stages of blistering and decay from a bite.

This is about a day after a Loxosceles bite with later stage necrotic damage.

An example of having to have necrotic tissue removed prior to skin grafting.  This damage was all from a Brown recluse spider.

That is why I don't like spiders.  But I do tolerate them.  I do appreciate that they provide a lot of good to my garden.  So, I will just go on leaving them alone and steering as clear of them as I can.

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