Saturday, August 6, 2011

Arachnids Of The World

I am a little bit scared of spiders.  Some of you will be rolling on the floor laughing now because you know me well and can probably remember a time when I just about died of fright when a saw a spider from across the room.  Well I have improved a bit over the years and now I am able to kill my own spiders, not with my own shoe though, I usually find someone else's to use.

When I was younger I used to scream at the top of my lungs and have to get my dad to come and kill the little beasties.  It was not ok for him to just take it outside in a humane manner.  After all it knew where I lived now and I was sure it would round up a few friends and come back as soon as my back was turned.  I would sometimes come out in a rash from the fright.  It was pretty bad. 

I remember one time my brother and I were home alone and I found a spider in my bed.  He was out in the garage doing boy things and knowing that he loved to torture me I couldn’t ask him to come and kill it.  I actually rang a friend (who is now my sister in law) and had to get her to come down and get rid of it for me.  I still didn’t sleep well that night.

Well, as I said I have gotten better over the years.  I have made a special point of not letting on to my children that I prefer not to develop close relationships with 8 legged creatures.  It is one of the rules of parenting that you should never let them see fear in your eyes.  I’m not sure what happens if they do but I’m sure its bad and I don’t plan on finding out first hand.

When Emily was about 2 we lived in New Zealand and had a lovely fully fenced in backyard.  She was outside playing one day while I did some gardening.  Kaitlyn was a baby and was sleeping inside the house (it’s ok I had the monitor on).  I was fully engrossed in ridding the garden of nasty weeds when I looked up and realized that I couldn’t see Emily anymore.  I went in search of her and still couldn’t find her anywhere.  I started to panic a little bit but where could she have gone?  All the gates were closed and the doors to the house were closed.  She was far too short to be able to reach any of the latches.  I searched and searched.  I even searched inside the house.  I thought I heard her in there but couldn’t see her.

I went back outside and it was then that I noticed the trapdoor leading under the house was propped open a little bit.  Now in New Zealand we don’t typically have basements so under the house is dirt and then the piles that the house sits on.  The gap between the ground and the floor of the house is a wonderful place to raise spiders.  I had never been underneath a house before and quite frankly it was the one place you couldn’t pay me to go.  I realized that this was the exact same place that my 2 year old daughter had just ventured.  Who knew how far she had gone?  It was very dark under there and I could only imagine the extent to which the ‘wildlife’ had taken over.

It was at that moment that I knew that I had a real problem.  There was no way I was going in there after her.  I didn’t care that she was my first born.  I didn’t care that she could be being eaten alive by creepy spiders as I stood there hopping from foot and foot and trying not to get too close to the entrance.  I was not going.  I immediately did the first thing that came to mind.  I called my Dad.  It was a good thing he was home from work, he started around immediately.

I called her name from a safe distance and she called back.  Eventually she actually made her way to the entrance on her own and came out before Grandad arrived.  I was very relieved and made sure she had no clingons before sweeping her up in a hug and telling her that she should never go under there again.  She did have some kind of bite on her face, I shuddered to think what had inflicted it.  She recovered in time and even wanted to go under there again, strange child.

A while later my mother was going through some stuff in her garage and came across a bunch of my old toys.  There was one particular doll that I had had as a child that she thought the kids would like to see.  She brought it around, it was still in its original box and the girls loved it.  She was one of these dolls that stood up and had a baby that she would rock from side to side as music played when you wound up a key in her back.  I let the girls have a turn each but I kept her in my sewing room so they couldn’t break her while I wasn’t looking.

After she had been in the house for a few weeks I noticed that the girls had bite marks on their bodies.  They were strange looking marks and not your regular mosquito bites.  I actually thought they looked like spider bites.  I tried to figure out what might have caused them.  We didn’t see a lot of spiders in our house and those that did venture in got dispatched shortly after their discovery in a horrifying way.  Then I noticed a spider I had never seen before.  I caught it in a jar (see I was getting better, I had to get pretty close for that) and then looked it up online.  To my horror it was a white tailed spider (one of the few poisonous spiders in New Zealand).  My skin started to crawl.  I immediately went out and bought bug bombs and set them off in the house and even had James put some up in the ceiling space. 

I used my incredible powers of deduction and worked out that I was living in a horror movie.  My beautiful doll had brought her own entourage with her in the form of hideous eight legged monsters.  I called my mother in hysterics and she came around, we investigated and found that hidden in that original box that the doll came in was a white tailed spiders nest.  The eggs had hatched IN MY HOUSE.  I looked up online and found out that they have literally thousands of babies in those nests.  I actually felt a little sick to my stomach.  My childhood doll had brought along poisonous beasties that had bitten my little girls.  I didn’t sleep too well for a while.

When we moved to the USA I realized that the spider options had just increased by a lot.  They don’t just have a couple of different types of poisonous spiders here, it seems like all of them are poised and ready to have a deadly nibble at any moment.  They look uglier than New Zealand ones too (although I must point out that the spiders used in the movie Arachnophobia were completely harmless but very fierce looking ones from New Zealand).

We immediately hired an extermination company to make sure that creepy crawlies stay out of my sight so that I can pretend that I don’t live in a country where all the animals are ready to attack me.  They do a good job too, I hardly see any crawling beasts and the turkeys that occasionally wander through the yard look fairly harmless.

Well a few weeks ago James was working late and I had the kids in bed so I decided to watch a little TV.  I kind of like documentaries so I found one of the animal or science channels and it had this programme on about different kinds of creatures that infested people’s houses.  I thought this could end badly for me but I went ahead anyway.  It was fascinating to see how many cockroaches could live in an apartment block and as for the little snakes that were hibernating under these poor people’s house, that was just horrifying.  I noticed that in all the cases whether it was ants, raccoons or bedbugs the narrator would say that we must understand that these animals were just trying to reclaim their natural habitats and that really we had gone and built our houses on top of where they liked to live.

Then came the part where I should have just turned it off.  It was the one about spiders.  They were everywhere and attacked these people in their sleep (apparently their natural habitat was right where these people decided to put their bed).  These people had set off bug bombs and had found out that by killing off most of the spider species they had allowed this one type (the hobo spider) to thrive since it had no competition and was now not getting eaten by the other spiders.  Well these people eventually fled the house and never went back and I finally turned it off and fell into a nightmare filled sleep.

Ever since then I have wondered if every little bite was caused by one of these marauders.  I started noticing that we had this one particular type of spider that was building webs in between our windows and the screens that were meant to keep bugs out.  The exterminator people had come a few weeks earlier and had mentioned that we had a fairly large spider population but not to worry he had done some extra spraying to get them under control. 

I immediately thought that we must have hobo spiders and that by killing off all the others the well meaning exterminator had just allowed our own special colony to flourish.  I looked up online and sure enough we had hobo spiders.  I started to see them everywhere.  They were in all the windows and I’m sure they were looking at me as I went from room to room, thinking about how they were going to get in.

The baby woke up one morning absolutely covered in small bites.  I mean, she had about 40 bites everywhere that her pjs had not covered.  I was sure that one of these spiders had got inside and decided to pick us off one by one starting with the smallest.  I took her to the doctors.  The nurse checked her vital signs and then I waited for the doctor to come in and tell me she had been attacked by vicious hobo spiders hunting in packs.

The doctor came in and within 10 seconds he diagnosed her bites as being those of a couple of opportunistic mosquitoes.  I felt a bit silly really, taking her to the doctor for mosquito bites.  I had looked up online and was sure the bites looked sinister.  He prescribed nothing except that perhaps I should get my husband to look around the ceiling before bedtime and see if he could kill the offending biters.

I had called James had he had arranged for the exterminator guy to come back for a special visit just to kill off the spiders.  They arrived the next day and I showed him all the spiders I had found then I stood back as he raised the windows and blasted them with his deadly poison stuff (no catch and release for these guys).  He went outside and attacked them from there too.  Hopefully he didn’t miss any because I’m pretty sure if there are any survivors they are probably pretty mad and no doubt they are at this moment planning a stealth attack.

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