Thursday, November 21, 2013

She is back...

I'm glad you asked. We think of her as Charlotte after that famous spider character created by E. B. White. She is an Australian Tarantula aka Selenocosmia crassipes aka Barking Spider aka Bird-eating Spider aka Whistling Spider and various other made-up names and she had a burrow about 30cm from my laundry door. I don't have a photo of her because when I tried to get close enough for a photo, it always turned out blurry. It might have had something to do with the uncontrollable shaking of my hands or the fast and heavy pounding of my heart. My camera lens's vibration reduction mode is good, but apparently my hand's vibration creation mode is better when it comes to spiders. If you want a short educational video about these spiders, with close-ups, you should view this link:

Most nights Charlotte would sit patiently in the opening of her burrow, waiting...waiting...until some unsuspecting lizard, frog, toad, human or anything on her spider menu wandered within pouncing distance. During the day she would snooze contentedly below ground. Life was good for Charlotte and apparently her days and nights had continued in this settled routine for many years. My mother-in-law somehow forgot to mention this fact to us until I was relating the story of her untimely demise. That's right - her demise. I came home from an outing to see that her burrow had been enlarged to such an extent that it was noticeable from the kitchen windows. Horror of horrors! Was she now so huge that she needed a burrow opening of 15 cm or more? No. Our resident goanna, a Lace Monitor, had been looking for a spider-sized snack. Charlotte was no more and the burrow remained unattended, grown over by weeds and collecting dead leaves for weeks.

Unfortunately Charlotte had a secret.  Charlotte was a mother.

Because we live in a regional location we don't have sewerage. Our toilet effluent goes into a septic tank, but our kitchen, laundry, shower and hand basin effluent is simply channelled outside, underground, into the sand. About a week after the 'goanna incident' we had a 'spiders-in-the-hand-basin incident'. Chimera found them first and thought they were half grown Huntsmen Spiders, but a little alarm bell was ringing in my head. Four spiders in the hand basin? Did they follow the leader across the bench? Did they bungie jump together from the ceiling? Or...did they come up through the pipe from below ground? That would explain why there were four at once. Chimera disposed of the spiders for me. I looked up my spider books.

Bizarre fact number 1: Whistling spiders care for their babies for many months until they are big enough to hunt for their own prey. A few days later we had more spiders in the basin. A couple had even escaped and were climbing the walls. Bizarre fact number 2: Whistling spiders are able to climb smooth surfaces, even glass and plastic. This was the stuff of nightmares. Mr Sunshine disposed of them, possibly illegally as they are probably a protected species.

Bizarre fact number 3: Whistling spider burrows can be a metre deep and up to 2 metres long with little underground chambers (pantry and bedrooms) off to the sides. I have news for the writers of the spider books. The pipe from the bathroom basin is over 3 metres from the entry to Charlottes burrow. THREE METRES OF SPIDER TUNNELS AND CHAMBERS. But, I could still sleep at nights because, after number 14, no more little spiders appeared in the bathroom and mother Charlotte had been gobbled up by our goanna, right? Wrong!

Today I discovered that the spider burrow has undergone a transformation - a renovation in fact. The weeds are pushed back, the dead leaves are off to the side and there is new web lining the opening.

Now I think I will go and have a lie down with a valium thick-shake.


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About Me

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Townsville, Queensland, Australia
I have worked as a Biology lab assistant, Pathology lab assistant, geochem lab assistant, land tenure researcher, hospital and prison chaplain, parish care coordinator and part owner of a small business. I have studied some science (no degrees) and have a theology and a chaplaincy certificate. I still love science of all types and enjoy studying theology. Science and theology belong together. At present I am a work-at-home Grannysaurus.

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