Monday, September 19, 2016

I Spy(der) With My Little Eye

Temperatures are cooling off in Eastern Iowa, signaling the start of the annual great spider migration into our humble castle. The castle is currently undergoing renovations and siding, thus disrupting the lives of all inhabitants – including spiders. This has resulted in a drastic increase in the number of Queen (me) V. Spider (them) throwdowns.

I am happy to report that yesterday's incident report has me ahead 2-0. Unless you count the little black spider near the front door, who is trying desperately to pretend he is just another dirt speck on the wall. Then the count would be more like 2-0-1. He is small, and plucky, and I have decided to grant him pardon, for the time being. I am a benevolent dictator, after all.

Make no mistake. One wrong move on his part, one sudden scurry while I am sitting on the steps tying my shoes, and he will be spider schmear. Benevolent and mercurial.

I try to give spiders the benefit of the doubt. I know they are an important part of the ecosystem, doing their part to keep the insect population in check. If it appears they are busy little bees – er, arachnids – meeting their bug-capture quota, I typically (occasionally) leave them alone. I like to think I only put an end to the dead weight – the slacker spiders who just hang around in their webs waiting for their tiny, little welfare checks to arrive. These lazy bums would probably starve to death anyway, so really, I'm just speeding up the inevitable, letting them die with dignity (and a crunch). Benevolent, mercurial and merciful.

For instance, right now I'm considering a bold spider social-science experiment, which would involve intense insect redistricting, and the busing of the aforementioned little spider from the front door area to the kitchen window area. The ants have established a ghetto on the window sill and are gaining a foothold (or six) on the counter top, which has for years been an exclusive fruit-fly resort area. The fruit-flies have attempted to build a wall to keep the undocumented ants out, but they have the attention span of gnats and are easily distracted by fresh fruit and sound bites.

Yesterday's death toll was the equivalent of spider-suicide. The creepy-crawly departed willingly violated my second rule for peaceful spider/me co-existence: If they don't move (there is a slight chance) I will ignore them. (Good advice for tiny spider by the door.)

Dead Spider 1 – a fairly good-sized brown house spider – could have lived. At first I mistook him for a dead cricket. That is, until I flipped him over with my duster and discovered that what I assumed was his violin and bow (Remember A Cricket in Times Square?) was actually two additional legs.

Still, he could have survived. But no. When I turned to get the dustpan (to facilitate the removal of his corpse, which was not actually a corpse) he made a run for it. Really, I had no choice. Death came swift and sure, delivered by a carefully aimed steel-toed work boot.

Dead Spider 2 was masquerading as a shiny green beetle, vacationing on the dryer's lint screen. (The lint screen for goodness sake! Is nothing sacred?) He too, made a run for it and was summarily flicked onto the floor and squashed. Repeatedly. With enthusiasm. And swearing.

This year's infestation has been a little unique, in that the number of spiders seems to have increased, but the top size of the spiders has decreased (So far. Knock wood.). In the past, there have been a few spiders I've threatened to put a saddle on and break to lead. (They were very carefully and quickly squashed, accompanied by much high-pitched screaming.)

I can't say as that I blame the spiders for their nomadic tendencies. Things are pretty higglety-pigglety here at the castle, what with all the construction, destruction, and spiders (but mostly the spiders). I've considered packing up my web, too. Then I consider the effort required to pack, stack, move and unpack (and meet new spiders) and I realize I'm just too tired to start over. Besides, I was here first and I have seniority – the average lifespan of a house spider is only about one year. (Yes, I Googled that as well as the spider ID and yes, I will have nightmares for the rest of my life.)

The sheer number of spiders this year (inside and out) has lead me to consider renting a flame-thrower, for some good, old-fashioned, extermination of biblical proportions. But that seems a little excessive at this point.

At. This. Point.

I'm leaving my options open.

Benevolent, mercurial, merciful, and amenable.

I rule with an iron hand in a velvet glove.

And steel-toed boots.

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