Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Black Widow Spider!

Black Widow
Originally uploaded by RussellChowning.
So, I went to get my bike out of the garage. I hadn't bicycled for at least a month, due to traveling, working, etc.

I did the customary thing, I wheeled it out into the light for inspection, and as I did, I noticed that it was tearing it away from some cobwebs, which is not surprising, often happens.

I parked the bike in front of the house and went in to get a rag and the tire pump. As I did, I was remembering how one time I had picked up a friend and her two little kids to take them to the beach. After she loaded her cobwebby paraphernalia into the back of my car and hopped in, she explained that they had cobwebs and stuff on them because she just grabbed the beach chairs, boogie boards, etc. from the garage.

All the way to the beach, I considered that there could be black widow spider families making their way along the floor of the car, headed for my bare ankles to deliver their fatal bites.

Fortunately, I didn't die that day. But I couldn't help but remember that creepy, crawly story as I headed back out to my bike to clean it up and add air to the tires. It added a kind of cautious mood to my task; a sense of impending doom.

I spent a fair amount of time, wiping at the cobwebs with the rag and my bare fingers, hardly paying any attention to the fact that the webs seemed rather sticky. I was almost finished, but there was one place, in the frame of the bike, that I hadn't gotten yet. It was a narrow, finger-wide space, and so I figured I'd just take the rag and poke my finger into the space.

Let me just add that ordinarily, I would have been simply taking care of the webs with bare hands. I was a tomboy when young, and climbed many trees as far as they would take me, jumped from many of them, surfed waves 2-3 times my size, rode toboggans down slopes, across streets and down the other sides at crazy speeds, and camped amongst rattling snakes and rode every roller coaster I could. I am not quite that way anymore, as time and age sobers us significantly, but I am not as squeamish as most females that I know.

Nevertheless, before I poked my finger into that one crevice that looked a bit cobwebby, I decided to look into it.

What I saw made me shudder. I saw what appeared to be a rather large shiny, black M&M sitting there. But instead of the M&M, it was a bright, bright, intense red hour glass shape, as crisply clear and straight-edged as if someone had drawn it using a straight-edge and painted it with red enamel.

I stepped back. I went inside and called to my husband, telling him that I "thought" there was a black widow on my bike.

He came bounding out, eager to see such a marvel. He peered into the space and began exclaiming with great enthusiasm. The words I recall that I can repeat were, "Wow!" "BIG one!" "Perfect hourglass!" "Perfect example!" "The epitome of a black widow spider!" (By the way, this photo is not of "my" black widow. "My" black widow did have a very, almost fake-looking, distinctive hour glass, with very crisp edges. It's just that she wasn't so "pretty" when we finished with her.)

So. He ran back into the house to get a screw driver and a can of insecticide (his answer for anything of the arach-persuasion). He sprayed my bike, and then poked the sinister widow out of her hiding place. And then told me to take a macro photo of her. So there I was down on the bricks, creeping myself out as I got close enough to her curled up body.

After I got the air in the tires, I put my bike in the back of my car, and all the way to the beach, I felt things crawling on me!

That was yesterday, and my bike is still in the car.

Generally, if I face my fears, and become informed, I am usually better able to handle things. And that monstrous black window making her home in my bike has creeped me out. So I went on the internet to learn that:

"Eating a black widow will normally kill a small predator (birds, et cetera) One can eat male widows without adverse effect, and so only avoid female spiders."

Alrighty then, I will only eat male widows!

"The venom of the female black widow spider is 15 times as toxic as the venom of the Prairie Rattlesnake."

And I was about to poke my finger into that little hole where she was waiting for me!

"The bite itself is often not painful and may go unnoticed. But the poison injected by the the Black Widow bite can cause abdominal pain similar to appendicitis as well as pain to muscles or the soles of the feet. Other symptoms include alternating salivation and dry-mouth, paralysis of the diaphragm, profuse sweating and swollen eyelids."


"Persons with heart conditions or other health problems may require a hospital stay. (Heart and lung failure may result in death.) A physician can evaluate the severity of the bite, and give specific antivenin or calcium gluconate to relieve pain if necessary. Healthy people recover rapidly in two to five days."


"First aid measures: Apply an ice pack over the bite location and keep the affected limb elevated to about heart level. Try to collect the spider specimen in a small jar or plastic bag for examination by a spider expert, even if you have crushed it. Treatment in a medical facility may be necessary. Call the Poison Center for additional information. Poison Centers across the country now have a new national emergency phone number - 1-800-222-1222"

(I am remembering how one of my brothers nearly died from a black widow spider bite. He was cleaning out a shed. His finger was bitten, and it turned black, and he was very, very sick. His finger always looked as if it had been attacked by a shark after that.)

"Be very careful when working around areas where black widow spiders may be established. Take proper precautions - wear gloves and pay attention to where you are working. The reaction to a Black Widow bite can be painful. The victim should go to the doctor immediately for treatment."

Note to self: get gloves that cover my entire body.

"To control the black widow, carefully remove all materials where they might hide. They can be cleaned out of an area simply by knocking down the webs, spiders, and round, tan egg sacs with a stick and crushing them underfoot. Removal or destruction of the egg sacks may help control the population. This spider is resistant to many insecticides."

Why is this not making me feel better?

Okay, after finding out more, and seeing photos of them, I have officially ended my tomboy period and any latent leftover, clingy cobwebby vestiges. If anything, I am even more creeped out! Oh, and get this, some sources say to look for them at NIGHT because they are nocturnal!

Not putting my bike back there, not going into that garage for any reason! Getting someone brave to go look for those, um, ugh (turning away) egg sacks.

Mark? I think there are black widows in the garage (soon to invade the bedroom and crawl around in the dark!)