One day about a month into my career, I was in an exam room with a client when a large-ish spider skittered across the exam table towards my hand.
“Eeek!” screamed the client.
“Eek!” screamed the vet. I grabbed the nearest book (I believe it was Miller’s Anatomy, a nice, dense tome) and dropped it on the table with a thud.
Then, from the client: “Guess you don’t love all the animals, huh?”
I felt kind of bad about that one, truth be told. I haven’t done it since. I’ve posted before about my grandmother and her love of all creatures on this planet, spiders included; surely she would be mortified at her granddaughter exhibiting such capricious murderous tendencies.
But that was my dad’s mother, and I was brought up in my mother’s house, She of the Grand and All Encompassing Arachnophobia. Her mother never met a fly swatter she didn’t like.
My mother stalked the house relentlessly with shoe in hand, and she was a registered nurse of the 60s era so “shoe” meant “10 pound white brick of a clog.” Spiders had but one purpose in life, and that was to be flattened like Alton Brown pounding a chicken breast.
So I have always had this internal struggle- I was genetically imprinted to fear and loathe spiders, yet the rational side of me knew there was nothing to fear, for the most part, kind of. I mean, I read Charlotte’s Web just like every good kid of the 80s. (And Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter too, but never you mind that.)
Spiders have webs of silk and hearts of gold, that’s what I say. Behind those eight black soulless eyes staring balefully at you inquisitive obsidian spheres lies the heart and cephalothorax of a hero.
My point is, I made a conscious decision that guilt-ridden day, full of remorse about my senseless arachnocide, that I wouldn’t kill any spiders unless they really, really deserved it. Daddy longlegs passing through are granted safe passage. Go forth and debug, my friends.
Black widows are trickier. They like to hang out in my children’s sandbox, which sets up an unfortunate confrontation: There can be only one. I dispatch my husband to be the hit man, my sensibilities unable to stomach the carnage.
I’m getting better with time, my underlying curiosity about these creatures (usually) overcoming my innate response of terror. Such was the case when my daughter informed me our front porch was now inhabited by an orb spider the size of a small bagel.
I sent my husband out to shoot it. With a zoom lens.
For reference, we take a leaf and toss it onto the web.
I told you it was big.
From the safety of the other side of the yard, I realized the gentle giant was more Snuffleupagus than Shelob. She didn’t want to jump out at me and suck out my brains, she just wanted to be left alone to spin her 7 foot web and rid my yard of flies. So we let her. As long as she stays out of my bedroom.
Yay for the Lord of the Rings reference! Nerds unite! (Psst, I’m rereading all the Harry Potter books for the new movie release. I love me some HP!)
Over the last couple of years I have had a brown spider that will set up a web about 24 inches across every night (during the summer of course here in MN) on a cable that comes into the back of the house eave by my patio. I hate spiders, but this was amazing to watch. Every night it would be set up at dusk, then totally removed by about 8 o’clock the next morning as if it had never been there. Very neighborly…you have to admire the work ethic.
Lisa W says
Too funny! We have lots of spiders that hang around our house and generally as long as they keep their many legs outside, I’m okay with it. I have to say, however, that a couple of weeks ago I was pulling into my driveway, and happened to notice that my front doormat was sitting a bit askew, with one corner kind of up against the door sill. And then I saw something move out from under it. I thought it was a mouse. As I got close enough to ascertain its true nature, however, I saw that it was a spider the size of my fist. I calmly backed away and let it go merrily along its path, as I didn’t want to be splattered with the amount of gore that would be involved in killing it, and I didn’t want to have to throw away the perfectly good pair of shoes I was wearing that day, which would have been required as there’s no way I’d be cleaning off that amount of spider guts. Haven’t seen him/her since, but I’m keeping my eyes wide open when I go outside!!!
Lee Ann L. says
I am glad that I am not the only one who lets most spiders (and other harmless critters) live. I can stand killing most of them and would rather set them free from the inside of my home.
I have always been more of the eeeeek, squash with my shoe or phone book kind of girl. But I have been trying to do better. I have 3 orb spiders right now on my patio! Anyway last year my husband and I was on the patio and a spider was actually trying to climb onto his boot. He NEVER kills spiders so he grabbed a magazine I had and tried to scoot it away. This spider turned around and reared up on it back legs!! He tried to scoot it away again and the spider reared up again and kind of ran at him a little! Now my husband is 6’1 and this spider was the size of a nickel! I must say that I wanted to squash it at this point but my husband said that the spider showed courage so we just went inside and left the patio to the spider that day. Don’t know what kind of spider it was but never saw it again. Thank goodness! 🙂 (Probably wouldn’t have made it a second time). 🙂
Dr. V says
I love that your husband respected the spider’s courage. That is so cool. 😀
Ah, Dr. V, I love reading your posts in the morning. Great way to start the day. I love all the Alton Brown and LOTR references <3
One of my previous boyfriends was really into spiders. He has them tattooed all over his arms. he convinced me to let him keep a few tarantulas as pets when we were living together. Not all that bad, really. I think they are beautiful. Sometimes if I see an orb spider out at night, I’ll toss them a moth to make sure they get a meal. They really are beautiful creatures if you look at them up close. The aforementioned ex even taught me how to tell male from female spiders and other interesting factoids. I’ve never really been the “eeek! squash” type of person, but I certainly have more respect for them now than I did before.
Pet Med says
I like this post. I have always played with spiders as a child and they never seemed to harm me. But as I’ve gotten older I have developed a fear of them. I dont kill them, but just try to avoid.
I have the same kind of relationship with spiders – if they don’t come into my house and show up unexpectedly in my shower when I’m trying to wake up at 5 am, then they can stay. And, for the most part, if I know where they are, I’m fine to leave them there. It’s not that I like them, exactly, but I respect them for their place in nature. Unless that place happens to be my shower at 5 am.
Silverfish and other milli-legged nasties…that’s a different story.
I agree with the “No Spider Smashing” philosophy… until it comes to black and brown widows. They must die, or my (species specific) arachnophobia and paranoia kicks into high gear. We tend to get infestations of them in San Diego, so every month I am out in the dark with a flashlight and (generally pet safe) bug spray, annihilating our ever growing population.
Dr. V says
I haven’t seen any brown widows- yet, but I haven’t been looking too hard. eeewie
I have an agreement with all spiders. I’m the only one allowed in the house. Outside they can have fun. That said, there is one in a picture in the bathroom. I tap on the glass & she moves. She is safe from me. I do try to take them outside but if it doesn’t cooperate then… Well, sorry!
Susan Montgomery says
I’m a live and let live person, until they drop down on me, then they must die.
Helen Woodward Animal Center says
Sounds like you need to come to the Harvest Tour, Dr. V! We have an amazing Goliath Bird Eating Spider here for the kids and parents to ogle at. Of course, what spider-ish name did we give her? Karen! Well, not that spider-ish, but I love that she has a normal name. We even have her spooky exoskeleton shed on display, too. Cooooooool!
I usually let the tiny spiders live…they do a good job of eating the other bugs (of which there are plenty….), so I can’t complain!
Oh, I am just AWFUL with bugs! One little EEK from me or a sudden jump, and my dog is however thrilled! She could have been asleep, but will eagerly jump to her feet, tail wagging, poised for action, searching for the bug to catch and kill it. (Unintended training of a dog, anyone?) My little exterminator to the rescue, every time. 😉 Thankfully, we do not appear to have poisonous bugs in our area.
My husband and two-year-old daughter are frightened to death of spiders. I usually try to escort the spiders outside unless someone is writhing in a ball of terror (usually the husband) and then I have to “show” that it’s gone. But I feel smashed spider guilt every time.
I once murdered a fly in front of a client–it was a huge black buzzy thing and I just smacked it when it landed on the exam table. I froze a moment, relizing what I’d done and my client said “That was a really nice euthanasia, DrSteggy.” before we both busted up laughing.
I’ve always been okay with spiders. I live in southeastern Michigan, so, for the most part, all the spiders here are harmless and they’ve never bothered me. I let them do their thing.
In recent years, though, we’ve had an influx of brown recluses in our area. My fiance actually found a big one in our basement about a year back and, since then, we spray any eight-legged creature whose markings can’t be identified. With our two cats and a Yorkie, I’m a bit paranoid and I’d rather be safe than sorry. I do feel sorry whenever we spray them though…they don’t mean to be a potential threat. =(