Friday, December 04, 2009

My First Encounter with a Black Widow Spider By Shady Henry

It was a day full of frustrations. My high speed internet stopped working. This is close to the end of the world for me, as I am a student and my home phone works on the internet. I called the cable company and to make a long story shorter, it took them a long time and a lot of confusion to get the Tech at my house.

So we finally get started on troubleshooting the internet and there is a bit of a hostility in the air and he says that I have a weak signal. We go to the yard where the cable box is and proceed to test the signal coming in the box. He opens the box, fiddles around the wires a little, locates mine and disconnects it and connects his meter. He cut the end connection of the cable and threw it on the ground but it got caught in a spider web. Wait a minute; a spider web would catch a metal wire connection?! Are spider webs that strong?!

All of a sudden, he puts his hands up and says "Back up, Back up". I thought that I was stepping on some part of the wire and shorting it out or something. But he said "Black widow spider". Sure enough, there was this big black spider hanging between two vertical cable wires, with a clear bright red hour glass on her belly. I had never seen a black widow spider live before. I told him to stay right there, I had to catch it. I am very curious and I wasn't just about to kill that spider and move on. I grabbed a jar and managed to catch it.

The cable guy and I spent the next hour running the new cable and the venomous spider conversation served to break the tension that was there at the beginning. That spider is dangerous. There was a gnarly web nest in the bottom, which I never thought anything of. See, the night before, I had my hand in the box, trying to check out the connections. The cable guy was handling cables all over the place before he sees it too. Either of us could have been bitten by a black widow spider! Do you know what that bite does to people? Let's just say it is not pretty at all!

When I told my wife about it, she would not let me keep it in the house. So I had to keep it in the garage. I called Baytown Bert, he has been taking interesting insect pictures and seems to like nature and pays attention to it’s details. I looked up some information on-line about the black widow spider and learned how potent their venom is. I learned that this one is an immature female western black widow spider.

I also learned that it is critical for their livelihood that a certain moisture be in their environment, so I cracked the jar lid and put some wet dirt inside. I drilled some holes in the lid and tossed in a couple of twigs. The spider ignored me.

Anyway, I brought it to show Bert - in the jar of course. A friend caught two bees for it and I put them in the jar using two pencils like chop-sticks. I left her alone for a little while, after which she ensnared both bees and lifted them up from the base of the jar to the top of her nest. This was the first time I saw her active. She was weaving and weaving. The next morning, she apparently ate the two bees; you can see her belly was much fatter. She also encapsulated them together and discarded them from the nest. Apparently, spiders clean up their nest!!

Baytown Bert has the spider now. He fed her one bee, but the second attempt wasn’t so successful…it got away and flew off to safety somewhere in the room.

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