May 22, 2012

Black Widow Factory

My fear of spiders is at near-phobia levels, especially when it comes to Black Widows like this specimen, which was lounging around in the open next to one of our rain barrels this week.

Black Widow spider showing her telltale red hourglass

They give me such heebie jeebies that Mr. English had to take these pictures, and I'm having trouble even looking at them as I type. We find these things in spades, at least 10 a week this time of year; they are all over the yard and not always hidden out of sight as you'd expect. Banyan's End is apparently Black Widow heaven.

For some reason, they particularly like to multiply in my greenhouse, which I don't understand given that it's pretty humid and wet in there at times. This morning I found an immature one living on the foliage of a tomato plant that is still in the greenhouse and had just been watered two days ago. These are the kinds of discoveries that make me very nervous!

In the greenhouse on the box that stores plastic garden pots

On the screen I use to dry onions and garlic

Black Widows basically show up anywhere around the homestead that is dry and somewhat protected. I've seen them in a crack in the house siding, behind the garbage cans, in a knot in the fence that holds our espaliered apple trees, squeezed between the wall and the metal hose holder, in the space underneath the wheelbarrow holder, under the handle of a plastic box lid, between the slats in my potting bench, in the tiny spaces between the boards of a raised bed, inside the handle of a garden tool, on patio tables and chairs, etc.

Web left behind by a Black Widow that has been "relocated"

Wheelbarrow home turned into a Black Widow home

No, nobody in the family has ever been bitten, but too often we've had scary near misses. Once a Black Widow took up residence in a shoe Maddie left for one day on the back step, once one came drifting down from the top of the sliding door track as I was about to close the door at night, and once after we came home from a long vacation we even found one in Maddie's clothes closet inside the house. (She had left her curtains and door closed, so it was very dark in there, but I still don't know how it got in.)

Intellectually, I understand the benefits of spiders in the yard and I don't mind when they're tucked out of the way somewhere gobbling up flies and such, but it seems like I have to constantly watch out for these suckers lest I grab one accidentally as I reach for a plant or a hose or a tool. Worse, I worry that one of the kids will be bitten as they play in the yard, which they do often. I know it wouldn't be the end of the world, but I'd prefer to skip a trip to the ER for a Widow bite.

Do other people have this kind of high Black Widow population in their yards? What do you do about it? Do you just educate your kids and leave the spiders alone, or do you "take care of them"?

7 comments:

  1. I just thought of a new way to use the beets.

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    1. Very funny, but you did eat that whole plate of smoked salmon beet ravioli last night!

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  2. Mr Englishs nicer sisterMay 24, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Does Mr. English catch and release ala Abba English? Or are you more of a vacuum sucker like Mr. Peers? Do Black widows qualify for Abba's Peta approved jar?

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    1. No, he shows them no mercy. For awhile he favored torching them with a stick lighter but lately just uses a plain, old stick. Today, after he found one walking up his arm as he was cleaning off one of the bikes, the brush-off-and-smash-with-foot method was employed, VERY quickly. Widow on the body was a first around here.

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  3. We have tons of black widows too, and I'm very much in your camp about it giving me the heebie jeebies. We haven't done anything about them to date. I hear that the chickens love to gobble them up. So once we get our yard set up a little better for pasturing our animals, the chickens should put a nice dent in their population.

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  4. I like to go on "patrol" at night with my headlamp. I walk around the yard in places I know they love to "hang out" and just smash them with my shoe. Usually flip-flops. I used to torch them until I once torched a spider sac and it exploded on me. Pretty gross. I would like to let our chickens take care of them too. I first have to do some "fortressing" of the areas I want them to leave alone. Soon... soon they will eat all they want!

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    1. That's exactly what Kevin does (headlamp patrols), but with a stick. The thought of a sac explosion is totally disgusting. Our neighbor feeds them to his chickens, but I think he catches them in a jar first (otherwise they are so well hidden during the day that I think even chickens would have trouble finding them.) This whole discussion is a reminder of why I leave the spider hunting to him. Yuck!

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