Saturday, September 18, 2010

The night I wore a hundred black widows

I posted the following the other day:

...and, while five of you "liked" it (I will assume you like my hilariously witty status-update writing, not my misfortune), more of you requested pictures, via Facebook and other means. I must really be getting a reputation for ALWAYS having a camera on hand. But no. Sorry. The following is the best I could do.

I intended to go to bed. Waylaid by incessant meowing and chomping of my appendages, I detoured to feed the cats instead. A few minutes later I was sprinting about my backyard, shirtless, at 1 a.m., covered in spiders and ripping my hair out.

The fact that when I told this to my husband all he did was shrug and say "Well, if you were going to be tearing your clothes off in the dark, you could at least have invited me;" with no comment as to the late hour, my outdoor indecency, or the spider-infested condition of my half-clothed form; speaks volumes about the extreme nature of my spider-related activities. However, everyone has a limit. I reached mine this week.

Let me back up. I really was on my way to bed. I had stayed up once again pissing away time on Facebook working, and it was much later than I realized. I dragged myself from the office chair to the stairs, only to be ambushed by both cats. I knew their dishes were full, so I picked them up, plunked them before the dishes, and returned to the stairs. They chased me down again, so I followed them back to the dishes, again, telling them that they're fine; there's a ton of food right there. They favored me With what is wrong with you? looks, so I switched the kitchen light on ... to see the dishes pulsating with about ten zillion ants. They were methodically carrying away morsels of cat food in a procession stretching across the kitchen and dining room.

Bedtime was definitely off. First, the cats were now quite sure I was trying to kill them; and second, even the most passing contact with ants invariably leaves me a lumpy, swollen, itchy mass of ... well, I'm not sure what, exactly, but it's not attractive.
Inspired by Hyperbole and a Half's spider equation, even though I usually love arachnids. 
I scooped up both cats -- who were pretty ticked by now -- tossed them in the office, and set to work eradicating the ants. So far, so good. Pain in the ass, but I was dealing like a champ.

Then I got the bright idea to go check for the ants' trail outside. I'm a huge advocate of "live and let live" but with cats/kids/food/living and still looking human at stake, I had to keep these ants out of the house. I figured I'd stop it at the source. My shoes were closed in the office with the cats, but my husband's super-ugly humongous Crocs were available. They flopped around on my feet, but who cares, I thought. It's not like I'm going to be running around in them.

Hideous clown shoes on feet, flashlight in one hand and poison in the other, I crept outside. No ants anywhere. I did, however, notice several giant black widows.

They seemed to be converting our stepladder into a quickly filling apartment complex. I decided that while I had the poison ready, it was eviction day (again, proximity issue - most spiders, black widows included, are highly respected in this house). I walked forward to get a good angle at the first one. When I did, for some reason, my hair kept getting in my face. I brushed it away, but there were a whole bunch of hairs in my face.

I kept brushing them off, but the hair was really sticky. And stretchy. And my hair was still getting in my face, especially from in front of me and also from above ... wait. What?

That's when I noticed that I had also walked into a giant clump of hair, and there were still pieces floating in the air. I aimed the flashlight toward the nuisance, and noticed that every "hair" floating -- and landing on my face and head -- looked like this:

...and that the giant swath on my chest looked like this:

By this point, I was quite unsurprised to find a spent egg sac beside one of the females. It looked quite innocuous -- like a flimsy, hollowed out piece of Kix cereal. It had hatched, and a hundred or so black widow spiderlings had moved to the top rung of the ladder, where I hadn't even looked since black widows tend to prefer low corners. They had attached their temporary home to some anchor -- I never figured out what, exactly, after blundering through it -- where dozens and dozens were just hanging out. The rest were dispersing on tiny bits of web they let out, no doubt to take over the small fraction of my yard that is not yet occupied by their sisters.

I saw and noticed all this -- the egg sac; the dispersal method; even the Kix cereal analogy, which I've used for years -- in a fraction of a second. I love black widows. I really do. I'm intimately familar with them. I can promise you I wouldn't be recounting that part otherwise, because I certainly didn't take time to put it together at that moment. There is such a thing as being TOO intimately familiar with an animal, and I would say the line is definitely crossed when hundreds of offspring of an extremely venomous spider are currently landing in one's hair, face, boobs. Eyes. MOUTH.

Upon realizing I was wearing a spider hair mask, a spider face mask, and a spider vest, I remained supremely calm and rational.

In the interest of optimal spider removal, I decided to go after their stronghold, which was now my torso. I tore their new base from my body.

...but somehow, this did little to make me look collected and dignified. I'm not sure why.

After sprinting several shirtless laps around the yard while shrieking calmly removing the remaining spiders and web, I tracked down one of the Crocs, which had flown across the yard at some point. I recovered the poison and flashlight. I couldn't find the shirt. I went inside.

There were more ants. Tons more.

I didn't have time to find another shirt, because now the ants were dispersing. I had to drop down and get them right now. I thought all the spiders were out of my hair. Besides, it's not like the babies are harmful anyway. But what if they were still in my hair? I thought. What if they hitchhike on my head, drop off in corners, and become giant, venomous adults? And this time it would be INDOORS. I had to find some way to contain them until I was sure. I had to quarantine my head.

Hats were out. They have holes, and besides, my husband would totally freak if I defiled his Sun Devils hat in such a manner.

We have lots of bags. They're sort of head sized.

Imagine you're my husband. You get home from work late. You might picture your wife snuggled in a cozy shirt, if it's warm, or more likely (in Arizona) sweating it out in some flirty camisole and pajama shorts. You might imagine that, after a calm, sane evening, she's tucked your son in, cleaned up the house, and is either serenely awaiting your arrival or already asleep in bed, waiting to cuddle contentedly up to you.

Instead, you get this:

I'd just like to point out one thing. The Crocs are still the stupidest-looking part of that ensemble.

Read some less-insane stuff about black widows, and see some pretty (real) pictures, here.


Gpabill said... Best Blogger Tips

Your adventures are much more entertaining to us than you likely found them. :-)

Angie said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh my word!! That is crazy scary! Although you did make it humorous, I'm still thinking you must've been right that the babies aren't venomous? Whew. I bet you're glad your husband didn't have a camera handy, right? ;)

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

You are wearing an ASU shirt. Maybe that is the problem?

kirsten said... Best Blogger Tips

I really *am* sorry about your misfortune, but you make it all seem soooo hilarious. I'm glad I don't have spider babies in my backyard. or ants, for that matter. I'll take the bears any day.

Leslie F. Miller said... Best Blogger Tips

I think you are NUTS. Absolutely nuts. Thank heavens!

Kim Hosey said... Best Blogger Tips

Bill: Thank you. That is kind of what I was going for, though I certainly didn't find it entertaining at the time.

Angie: I am quite glad indeed that no camera was involved. And no, the babies aren't venomous.

growfamilygrow: Ha; maybe! I like to think the ASU shirt protected me. You know, until I stripped out of it.

Kirsten: Agreed. I would take coyotes any day.

Leslie: I am indeed nuts. I guess you've got the pretty butterflies covered so well, I've got to stick to crazy-creepy stuff.

Margarethe Brummermann said... Best Blogger Tips

Good story! I'm not so sure the babes are so harmless (of course due to their tiny size, they are to you). I lately heard a spider expert. The reasoning went like this: Black widow venom may be so extraordinarily potent because these spiders do not practice maternal care, as most of their less venomous kin does. As a matter of fact, you witnessed the very early dispersal of the spiderlings. So if mom isn't going to provide how????
A side note, in Germany we call this time of the year, when the spiderlings sail around by their silvery shoot-lines Altweibersommer. Figure it out - at thirty you may only think it includes you.

Kim Hosey said... Best Blogger Tips

Margarethe: Hmm; I've never heard that about venom and maternal care. Cool theory! I guess I should have distinguished between nonvenomous and not harmful to humans. The spiderlings are, as far as I know, harmless to humans, as are the males. Still, they're black widows. Not really something in which I'd choose to cover myself.

Re: Altweibersommer -- cool! I love that there's a name for it.

Lani said... Best Blogger Tips

First of all, I concur about the appearance of crocs.. second of all. HOLY cow. I would absolutely die if I walked into a nest of Black widow spiders. I am totally creeped out just reading this and I might just call the bug man to spray around our house tomorrow.. just to be safe.

If you get a moment please stop by my Blog For A Cure Blog Party! 22 great prizes are up for grabs for anyone who donates at least $1.00 to my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser!

Jessica said... Best Blogger Tips

I think this just might be the hardest you've made me laugh yet!!!!

Teresa said... Best Blogger Tips

OMG..I am torn between laughing and getting up immediately to take a shower. I would absolutely be freaking out if that happened to me! It's nice that you have a sense of humor about it..I supposed you have to do deal with something so horrendous.

Maggie May said... Best Blogger Tips

oh my GAWD this is horrific!!!! you poor woman!

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said... Best Blogger Tips

This was so funny, thanks for sharing :) We have giant spiders outside our apartment windows, and they just terrify me. I try to ignore them, but ugh, so scary! I would not have been nearly as dignified if this had happened to me.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Eeew! Years ago I found a black widow on the porch and scooped it up in a tupperware to show my DH later. He came home and flew out of his skin when I showed him the spider. Guess I learned.

Scary Mommy said... Best Blogger Tips

Your artwork is totally genius-- it almost makes the whole thing worth it, huh?

Mary said... Best Blogger Tips

Totally stellar. The illustrations did it for me. But dude... how completely horrifying is that? I have a bit of a spider fear as well. I'm ok with them existing, just not ON me. I very well might have died of fear if I were in your shoes... err... crocs.

Suzanne said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you. That was one of the funniest recounts I’ve read in a long time. I can imagine I would have reacted the same way after running into a veritable city of black widows, babies or no. I’m impressed you worked on the ants after, I would have run straight for the shower, ants be damned :) You have a way with words.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Good evening

Thanks for sharing, I have digged this post

katiekono said... Best Blogger Tips

This is hilarious! Funnier than Dave Barry!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Have you ever tried wolf spiders? They raise their young on their bodies. What fun to find one crawling on you with the whole gang! Ah! The Southwest!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Ha ha ha! I came across your blog because someone had visited my blog from one of your pages and I roamed around until I found this. Bloody hell this is funny! Granted, I think I like it mostly because I can see myself getting into the exact same situation. :)

Down with ants, the scourge of my house! And hooray for Crocs, the most wonderful stupid looking shoes on the planet!

Cheney said... Best Blogger Tips

I found your blog through BlogHer's 2011 Voices of the Year - and glad I did, because this post made my morning. You REALLY should label this post NSFW, because I cracked the hell up and shed a few tears over that last picture. Nice job - I would have just died if that had happened to me.

Dana said... Best Blogger Tips

OMG dying. You handled it so much better than I ever would have.

Wendys Hat said... Best Blogger Tips

This is hilarious and I love your cartoon drawings! Makes me feel happy because I thought weird things only happened to me. Visiting you from Google+ where I've enjoyed seeing your great photographs.

minta said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh my ! I live in AZ ...& have waged war on the ants in my yard (in the dish..feral kitties dish outside)...maybe one day I can write about my reaching for a glass if water beside the bed and getting my arm hand and mouth abuzz worth ants!!! :(...... This was sadly hilarious.... Kill all the pests!!

Holly M Cupp said... Best Blogger Tips

A few years ago I lived in a duplex and encountered the same problem in our backyard when I went out side to grab the clothes from the washer and hang them up. My whole little fenced in yard was a spider web with gazillions of spider babies. We had such a horrible black widow infestation in that duplex in the short time we were there and that ended up being the biggest reason we left the place after only 6 months. Love your illustrations!

Fellow "Arizona Writer"