Monday, 22 August 2011

Return of the Orb Weaver!

The other day I pulled open our filing cabinet in the study and frantically started searching for my pre-nuptial agreement. Before you start to stress, I’m not about to make an end to our marriage. No, I simply wanted to see if there was anything that mentioned spiders, and my role and responsibility in the killing and /or removal of said spiders. As my eyes scanned the pages I my mood became lighter and my smile broader. I just began to whistle an old, long forgotten folk song when it happened.  The first note was pure, the second sounded more like it came from one of those party whistles that those annoying kids just won’t stop blowing. Just as I thought I was free from this terrible fate I read those ominous words, just above my signature, "...till death do us part". That short sentence takes on a whole new meaning after one stumbled upon a somewhat surprised eight-legged monster in the darkness outside!

Why Australia had to be the continent with the deadliest creatures is anyone’s guess. And another question that I am yet to find an answer to, is why a spider as small as my little finger nail carries enough of a punch to dispatch a cow when his dinner needs be, at most, as big as himself?? I recon it’s total overkill (with the emphasis on “kill”) but hey, who am I to judge? Maybe I’ll get the answer to those questions when the last clause of that contract comes to fruition. Be that as it may, we are here now, sharing the land with our friendly neighbours.

I think my newly acquired  friend’s scientific name is something along the lines of Demortus Eternitium Arachnaphobius Terribalius Horrendous, or DEATH for short. DEATH is an "orb weaver”. The smart people on the internet recon that his bite is merely “mildly painful” and that he will most probably run away rather than attack. Yea, right. My personal opinion, if I may, is that a person who is stupid enough to perform such an experiment should not be left unsupervised in a laboratory, and can by no means be the most trustworthy source! I am also not harbouring any aspirations to test his thesis one way or another! DEATH is not exactly what I would call “small” – if he were to stretch out those long, hairy, spine-chilling legs he would easily measure about 7cm across. He is a nocturnal fellow, (so much the better for him, to remain unseen by the un-suspecting, minding-my-own-business passer-by. Aka, me...) and makes his glorious appearance every night on our veranda.

One night I made a point of watching him as he went about his business. He starts off by connecting a silk thread between the house and the garden wall, a distance of about 4 meters, or 57 times his own body length. That alone is reason enough to treat him with a liberal dose of respect! He then proceeds to attach a vertical thread from the middle of the first line down to the ground, to form a “Y”. This is followed by a number of wagon-wheel like circles that he spins about 4 cm apart, from the centre outwards. He then adds some finer threads in between those. The end result is a true masterpiece, spanning a good 70cm, and at just about the same height as the average man’s face when he strolls from the garage to the house late one night. I guess he does this to be in a better position to observe the expression on your face when you walk into the web, followed by that crazy performance of swinging arms and legs, madly hitting in all directions trying to dispose of the member of the species Arachnida that is no doubt about to inflict a so-called “mildly painful” bite. You would need to be quick though, because believe me, this fellow is fast!

I once threw a trig into the web. My goodness! The one moment he was sitting there, upside down in the centre of the web, and the next minute he was ferociously attacking the twig with a vengeance! After a while he realised that it was not a juicy bug and with disgust hurled the twig away, returning to his original spot in the middle of the web to wait for his next unsuspecting victim.

At this stage we have a good mutual understanding. He stays out of my way during the daytime, and at night I will grant him his spot in the moonlight. Christa did mention once that he will be gone by the time I come back from Brisbane. I can imagine the picture of her approaching, torch in the one hand and a can of Doom in the other, with three curious faces staring wide-eyed from around the corner to witness the spectacle. Somehow I can’t see her doing that (I know that I certainly won’t have the nerve!) so he should be safe for now.

To conclude I will end with a few pictures that I took of DEATH in all his eight-legged glory on our veranda in Melbourne.

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