Some itsy-bitsy spiders took a very long road trip

Posted 10/23/20

I’m afraid — not deathly, but nearly so — of spiders.

That fear, probably better described as a loathing, has waned over the years, probably after asking my wife to “take care of” a …

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Some itsy-bitsy spiders took a very long road trip

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Posted

I’m afraid — not deathly, but nearly so — of spiders.

That fear, probably better described as a loathing, has waned over the years, probably after asking my wife to “take care of” a large-ish spider which found its way into our house one too many times during our 30-year marriage.

Embarrassing, I know. Particularly when she gives me that “You’re a man, aren’t you?” look.

She doesn’t mind rubbing it in. A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, Lee Ann suddenly said, with a little too much enthusiasm: “Oh! Can I tell you about the spider I saw in the garage yesterday?”

Uh, no thanks.

She proceeds to tell me anyway, accompanying her story with a vivid description of said spider and an “it was THIS big” visual aid, using both hands to make a circle with the diameter of a baseball.

This isn’t a story about big spiders, though. It’s actually about a bunch of small spiders, and a newfound respect I have for the resilience of the species.

It started after I detached the bicycle rack from the back of my car for a couple of days last week in order to take the car to the shop for an alignment. I left the heavy-duty rack outside, beside our garage. When I re-attached it last Tuesday evening in preparation for an early-morning departure Wednesday for Florida — where I’m writing this now, down for a visit with our son Addison and his wife in Orlando — I noticed them.

Looking closely, I studied the intricate system of webbing stretched within a U-shaped curve in the bike rack. Within the strands were dozens of baby spiders — tiny but unmistakable.

The mom was nowhere to be seen.

For a minute I gave thought about what to do about the spiders — I mean, what were my options? Help them find their mom? — before loading our two bicycles onto the rack and securing them, careful not to disturb the web.

Now it was my turn to tell Lee Ann about spiders. She suggested spraying the web with a disinfectant, which for some reason struck me as cruel. “They’ll blow off on the road tomorrow anyway,” I said, reasoning that being caught in a vortex and spit out onto I-95, then crushed under the wheels of a tractor-trailer, was somehow more humane for the little darlings.

That was Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, the spiderlings were still there, still moving as I loaded our bags into the car. We hit the road shortly after 8 a.m.; some nine hours and 570 miles later, after we pulled into the driveway of our rental house in Orlando, the first thing I did was check on my babies.

Still there.

Still there AND still moving.

It looked like I lost a few along the way, but for the 15 or 20 remaining to have survived that trip — including hour after hour with the cruise control set at 78 as we barreled south on I-95, then west on I-4 out of Jacksonville — it seemed miraculous.

I ended up Googling “mother spider with babies” to see if I could research some science about the resiliency of the little freaks, but my search returned — unfortunately — scores of videos of throngs of scattered baby spiders instinctively running for their lives after mom was squashed, nudged with a broom on a garage floor or somehow otherwise encumbered upon.

A bit too creepy for me, so my formal research project ended there.

We’ve spent a week in Florida. I’ve checked on the spiders each morning; alas, by day four, only a few were still in the web. Then we had a heavy rainfall: down came the rains, as the song goes, and washed the spiders out.

It was a bit sad, having seen them survive the elements, and certainly the exposure, of such a long trip, and then get flushed away by a cascade of rain. One or two may have survived. They may have vague recollections of North Carolina, but what a story they’ll have to tell their Sunshine State brethren about the trip down, huh?

Or at least that’s what I kinda hope.

Know what I’m not hoping?

Of course you do: that the mother spider — no doubt a strategic predator who probably ate the spiderlings’ father and is steaming mad about having her brood kidnapped — is plotting revenge upon my return.

Maybe Lee Ann will see her first and save me once again.

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