Tuesday, March 16, 2010



Because we're about to start keeping bees in our backyard, we're trying to take care of projects right next to where the hive is going to be. We don't relish the thought of hammering, painting or shoveling right next to a couple of thousand bees.

This morning, we decided to replace the wooden awning that covers a window on neighbor's garage, and juts into our back yard. A few weeks ago, Lisa had asked Mandy next door if we could fix this falling-apart awning, and she admitted to having never known that this structure was even on her building. This awning is only a few feet from where we hope to house our bees. And it's falling apart.

Better to fix it now, when the coast is clear.

Taking down the awning was no big deal. Three taps with a ball-peen hammer and it was lying on the ground in pieces. As I was collecting the remains, I noticed one of our very common "cellar spiders" crawling on a plank. People call them that here, as well as Daddy long-legs but the Daddy long-legs I know from the northeast are bigger and have a pill shaped rather than oblong body. Anyway, as I was deciding where to dispose of this board, this spider rushed up the surface and didn't stop until it reached its egg sac.

This of course earned it special treatment: a one-way ticket to the sanctuary of the mysterious one-foot gap between our fence and our back-neighbors.

I was pondering how to rebuild the awning-thing (apparently an awning made of wood is still called an awning) and suddenly remembered that there was a pile of old wood under the house.
A few months ago we were annoyed that the contractors, who were supposed to clear out all the debris from under the house, had left this pile behind. Now I'm glad they did. It's all the most beautiful, clear, deep red, old growth redwood.

I have to confess my new found love for this stuff. Lisa dug up a pile of redwood planks in the back yard last fall and I've been using it for every household project I can think of. It's damp, fungus and termite resistant, lustrous, a dream to work with and will last forever (I'm convinced the planks in the yard had been buried for decades).

As I was pulling these boards out I was thinking about how we never seem to have to worry about spiders under the house. When we first moved in I spend a good deal of time under the house and saw thousands of long dead, mummified spiders but never a live one. So imagine my surprise when I sighted down this board and saw my first black widow.

It's notable that my usual reaction to this kind of surprise did not take place. I did not fling the board, nor did I scream and run away. (Not something we covered in physical therapy). Instead, I watched the spider with great interest all the while (mis)remembering an important "fact." I think Lisa told me once about how different in size male and female black widows are and how one of them is practically non-venomous. Watching this spider, I convinced myself that this must be a large and not very dangerous male. (Wrong.)

It really hardly matters, though. I wasn't going to get up close and personal and, really, black widow spiders are only dangerous when provoked and rarely deadly, unless you're a male black widow spider. I found her new home where no one is likely to bother her again and went back to a very careful inspection of the lumber.

The spider in the photo was not in our garden, but in Lisa's studio, a few years back.


Kyna said...

I've seen a few black widows since I moved here to NC. Where I lived before in Canada, there were none. The most recent sighting was in our own mailbox. A female had set up shop/web in the back of it, which my husband discovered by sticking his hand into her nasty web....

Debbie said...

You have a lot of guts. I would have been flinging and screaming for all I'm worth. My daughter in Nashville, Tn has brown recluse spiders in her house. Ecck!

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Brown Recluses are the ones that give me (Lisa) the heebie-jeebies. They're so vague and normal-looking, and so really disgustingly dangerous. I spent a summer working in Southwestern Indiana, which was apparently crawling with them. I never saw one, but I had a *lot* of spiders in my bed at night.

And to this day, I shake out my shoes if they've sat, unworn, for more than one day.

Anonymous said...

Our neighborhood is literally crawling with black widow spiders. Shy & nocturnal, yet nevertheless poisonous, we go outside at night during the summer and kill every one that we find. Otherwise, they propagate in greater numbers, and increase the chance of finding one inside the house, or in the wood pile, etc.

I agree about brown recluse spiders -- so normal looking yet so poisonous.

Frankly, the only spider that has any chance of me leaving it alone is the cellar/daddy long leg spider. I've been told three things about these spiders:

1. They're more poisonous than black widows, but
2. Their mouth parts are designed in such a fashion (thank You, God) that they are physically unable to bite us, and
3. They're deadly predators to the very black widows we're trying to get off our property.

So as long as they aren't making terrible cobwebs up near my ceilings, I leave the long-legged guys & gals alone.

Southern California

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is a dangerously beautiful backyard spider! Hope it is not as big as it appears on my screen!


. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

They can be pretty stinkin' big. This is a good, thing, in my opinion, so you don't miss seeing them, and put your hand down on one.

Karen Anne said...

Maybe the contractors left the redwood on purpose because they realized what it was...


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