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Jul 06 2007

I cannot resist one more spider post

harvestmen2.jpg
Clump of harvestmen writhing in my perpetually unfinished soffit. The reader will kindly forgive the crappy picture quality; I had only my little point-and-shoot with me, having chemobrainedly omitted to throw the Big Camera Bag into the truck prior to departure. Phalangiium sp., Cottonmouth County, TX, July 2007.

Speaking of shrimp foam, the Twisty Arthropod Institute sponsored a field trip to El Rancho Deluxe yesterday (El Rancho Deluxe is the Faster family seat in Cottonmouth County, where for the past two years I have endured the unparalleled torture of building a house, which house is destined to remain in a perpetual state of it’ll-be-finished-in-two-months). The secondary purpose of this trip was to argue with a roofing contractor (a chap my architect calls a “neanderthal”) about the circumference of proposed downspouts, but the principal mission was to document the harvestmen phenomenon.

harvestmen1.jpg

I allude to the habit of these harvestmen — also known in the US as daddylonglegs ‘spiders’ — to congregate en masse under the unpainted eaves and unfinished soffits of the future residences of spinster aunts. Viewed from afar, their convocations resemble the gunk you pull out of your shower drain. Closer inspection reveals that they are huddled masses of spindly arthropods, all languidly waving their legs around. I counted eleven clumps of 30 or 100 or so in various crannies around the house, but undoubtedly many more went undiscovered. Some individuals were white, survivors of attempted genocide by sadistic plaster-wielding drywall contractors.

I cannot get behind this anti-spiderism. It mystifies me that a drywall dude who clearly appreciates the beauty in an exquisitely smooth ceiling should fail to be down with this kind of spectacular pulsating arthropod action.

Not to unweave the rainbow overmuch — for certainly you have, since the cradle, cherished warm feelings and romantic ideas about the daddylonglegs — but as the world’s leading expert on harvestmen, I would be remiss if I didn’t debunk a few enduring myths. For one thing, harvestmen are not proper spiders. They’ve got their own order, Opiliones. And they’ve got two eyes instead of eight; the cephalothorax and abdomen, distinct segments in spiders, are fused into a single globular unit; and they don’t spin silk.

Neither is it true that harvestmen are the most venomous creatures in the animal kingdom, but that their mouths are too small to bite. Their fangs don’t emit poison at all. Like many people I know, they do emit a malodorous substance from specialized stink glands, however.

Although zoologists accept without blinking an eye that appending the word ‘man’ to the name of a bug is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, it goes without saying that female harvestmen are not called ‘mommylonglegs’ or ‘harvestwomen’. That would be absurd.

61 comments

  1. Greg

    Of course, should these creatures come to be known as “mommylonglegs,” the pornsick would hear echoes of MILFitude.

    On another note, I have grown up in the proximity of these creatures (the “harvestmen”) and have never seen them cluster together like this. Maybe it’s not something they do in the Northeast?

  2. stekatz

    Neat-O!

    The mommylonglegs at my house don’t cluster like that. Is it a subspecies thing? I’ll see small clusters of hatchlings, but they don’t hang out together for long. My house is a full-on spider sanctuary. I don’t even toss them outside. We stand by the creed, “If you have spiders, you need spiders.”

  3. PhysioProf

    Great post!

    One of the things we study in my lab are toxins from the venom of Atracinae spiders. These suckers are vicious predators, and their bite can be deadly to human beings. Fortunately, at least for those of us not living down under, they are only found in Australia and are commonly called Australian funnel-web spiders.

    They dig holes in the ground that they line with silk, and then they lie in wait in these “funnels” for prey to walk by and disturb one of the “trip wire” silk threads that extend out of the funnel. Then they jump out, pounce on the prey, and envenomate it.

    Here is a link to a picture of one, of the species Atrax robustus:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Victorian_funnelweb02.jpg

  4. julybirthday

    Ah, the childhood memories of cruelly feeding these creatures into the backs of fans, so they get sucked through and emerge missing a few legs. Or of other kids knocking off a cluster of them onto your head. I love them now, and hope to reverse my karma by giving them room to roam.

  5. Patti

    I admit to being creeped out by spiders in general – we have these European House spiders that are 2 to 3 inches across that are pretty much the last straw for me. But we also have Golden Orb spiders outside that I find lovely. And those clumps of harvester-not-spiders are endearing, for some reason.

    My copy of Broadsides From the Other Orders is loaned out right now – she has a section on daddylonglegs, now I want to re-read it.

  6. Marcy

    I didn’t know it was a common misconception that daddylonglegs were venomous. I was certainly no fan of bugs and creepy crawlies when I was a little girl, which is probably why I knew that they were laid back and harmless. My dad always made sure to reiterate just how harmless MOST bugs were. It was the only way to keep me from freaking out, I think.

    I remember calling my mom at work once because there was this big beetle with pinchers walking around in the house. (Yes, I was old enough to be left at home by myself, yet I was *still* freaked out about bugs at that age). She yelled at me for calling her at work for a non-emergency, so I ended up asking the next door neighbor to come get that beetle out of the house.

    Anyway, at some point I made quasi-peace with the idea of bugs. Ugh, when I think of all the bugs I stepped on as a little kid b/c I was afraid of them and they were smaller than I was. Shameful.

    My house is a full-on spider sanctuary. I don’t even toss them outside. We stand by the creed, “If you have spiders, you need spiders.”

    So true. If I have a spider hanging out on a web, I leave it alone. However, if I see one on the move, it’s fair game, and I’ll sic my cats on it. I’m afraid it might crawl in my bed. Eww.

  7. Orange

    There’s gotta be some practical joke utility for these harvestmen clusters. Wriggly merkins? Maybe wielded to freak out one of those adolescent male critters who insists that his girlfriend get a Brazilian wax? It would take a brave and non-arachnophobic woman to pull this off, but the efficacy would be unparalleled.

  8. CLD

    I thought they were perfectly adorable, all clumped up like that. Then, you had to go and compare them to something clogging up the shower drain and well, that just kind of gave me a pang of gag reflex. I’m no fan of large, hairy spiders, but I’m less a fan of clumps of disgusting hair that came from who knows where.

  9. Panic

    I quite enjoy arachnids, one on one. Something about them in groups scares me though.

    Of course, this somehow means I hate children.

  10. ms.anthrope

    Awesome! My 8 year old biologist loves telling anyone who’ll listen that daddylonglegs aren’t actually spiders; I’m showing her this post so she can add to her data collection. Thanks!

  11. Errihu

    I won’t kill spiders outside. However we have hobo spiders in my house (relatives of the brown recluse), and those I will kill. If it’s in my territory against my wishes, it’s subject to squish. Anything that might conceivably crawl on me while I sleep or get into my clean clothes will feel the touch of the Shoe. Ants in the house especially. But outside, it’s their territory. I do my best to leave them alone, they are only doing what nature intended them to. In fact as I’m writing this a wolf spider is climbing the wall towards the shelf I keep my panties on. I’m sorry, I just can’t let that go. Spiders in my panties that I know will bite me are not allowed. However on seeing me approach it ran somewhere I can’t get to and I told it as long as it stays out of my panties I’m ok with it. It can kill the invading ants I’ve seen lately.

    I’m especially fond of the little black and yellow jumping spiders I’ve seen around here. When I find them in the house I let them out, because they’ve usually roamed in by accident and do not like it in here any more than I like them in here.

  12. pokerbutt

    Interesting. I was always taught that daddylonglegs were perfectly harmless and a good thing to have around for getting rid of other bugs. I have a number of them around my house, but they have never clustered up like this. Bizarre. Subspecies or regional variation?

  13. Panic

    Errihu,
    Can I ask where you live? You seem to have quite the collection of excellent beasties! :)

  14. goblinbee

    Since human invasion of the planet has caused vast animal populations to shrink, recede, or expire, I always feel eternally grateful for the relatively few species that can somehow manage to co-exist with us. We’re all in their territory, not the other way around. I show my gratitude by gently carrying them out of the house and letting them go, be they bird, mouse, spider, etc. Except, I mostly just leave the spiders be. If they’re in my bedding, they are easily shaken out.

  15. CafeSiren

    Well, count me as one who had bought into the “venomous” myth. I stand corrected.

    I am also creeped out by spiders (or other arthropods) — most recently because a rather largish one walked across me last night as I was drifting off to sleep. Gah! But less proximately, I spent eight years living in Brown Recluse Central, and I have seen firsthand what the bite of such a beastie can do. And I don’t like the fact that they consider the inside of my shoes as their “territory.”

    I do, however, allow up to four harvester-types to live peacefully in my apartment, if they choose, since I have an intermittent ant problem. They are, however, banned from the shower, and from my bed. Last night’s visitor ended up squished.

  16. The Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    I read somewhere that a small but measurable percentage of women have the phobia that a spider will crawl up into the Vagina.

    What’s a soffit?

  17. Michelle

    Thank you, Twisty!! I remember these from my childhood in Boerne, where they camped out en masse in our garage, but every time I tell my fellow Phoenicians about these they tell me that they aren’t really that big in Texas, and that it was just my small child size at the time making them seem huge. Now you have provided me with photographic evidence! Victory dance!

  18. Zora

    Wow! I totally fell for that poisonous myth and never bothered to check it out. Shame on me! I grew up knowing full well that daddy longlegs were not poisonous, but when I heard we were really just safe because they couldn’t bite us I bought it hook, line and sinker. I am so glad to be set straight.

    And why, oh why, have I never heard of this Opiliones order when I love the daddy longlegs so?

    The things I have left to learn are innumerable. Thank you, Twisty, for this little piece of enlightenment. I will be sure to spread the word.

  19. Nymphalidae

    I read today in the “terminal segment” (haha…oh, entomology) of the American Entomologist that the largest terrestrial arthropod is actually a beetle larva of Megasoma actaeon, which tops out at 205.1 g. The bird-eating tarantula, Theraphosa blondi, does not get bigger than 200 g. So insects are FTW! Take that, spiders!

  20. Jezebella

    Soffit & facia are the boards that are your eaves & gutters. I think facia planks are laid vertically, soffit horizontally. In any case – the carpentry that closes the space between outer roof and wall. Does that make any damned sense at all?

    I can never be bothered to learn which spiders are venomous and which are not, so they are all trapped and released outdoors. Besides, if they stayed, the cats would probably eat them, so they’re better off outside.

  21. SusanM

    We had these (the real Daddy Longlegs) when I was growing up on the desert. Then I moved to the big city and what everyone else called “Daddy Longlegs” didn’t look the same as what I remembered; it turned out they were actually the oft-confused-for-daddies, cellar spiders:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pholcidae

    …who build webs and act all spidery, but in houses. They aren’t nearly as social as your harvestmen– in fact I’m pretty sure they eat each other, given half a chance.

  22. TinaH

    Spider, Spider on the wall
    Ain’t you got no sense at all?
    Don’t you know that wall’s been plastered?
    Gett off of there, you silly spider.

    We were always taught that if you stepped on either a mommylonglegs (MLL) or a daddylonglegs (DLL) that it would rain. My youthful self had always assumed that female DLLs were called MLLs, shows what a crazy whacko feminist I am!

  23. Twisty

    What kind of deranged mind finds reasonable the proposition that stepping on bugs causes regional meteorological events?

  24. XtinaS

    I love spiders, though I’m also mildly squeamish about them.  I let them build their webs in the house, primarily because (a) they do it in ceiling corners and (b) hey, if they wanna catch bugs for me, more power to ‘em.

    We used to have a spider that built its web on the back porch.  Anytime we caught a stinkbug inside, we’d feed it to the spider.  Pampered little beast.

  25. justicewalks

    I read somewhere that a small but measurable percentage of women have the phobia that a spider will crawl up into the Vagina.

    You know, I actually had a spider try to do just that several years ago. As I was falling asleep, I thought I felt something crawling up my leg, but I told myself to stop being silly and ignore it. When I awoke, I had a somewhat large-ish striped spider in my pubic hair, crushed by my thunder thighs.

    He nearly made it, he did.

  26. darms

    Ye cats, my phobia – Daddy Long Legs. In the late 70′s, had a house in Arlington TX in the woods across from TX stadium. First time I encountered the writhing masses, I was watering the yard. Hit the side of a tree with the water, suddenly about half the tree’s circumference ran away. And then there were their ghastly “love-ins” on the side of the house, thousands of those nasty things, quivering and giving off their “special” odor. Jeez, still creeps me out. No DLLs for me, please…

  27. Jodie

    Oh, we had these at the very first house I owned. They’d clump up like that and pulsate. Weirdest thing, I’d never seen them act like that anywhere else. I always assumed it was because the house was hospitable (the rough brickwork gave them plenty of places to hide, and the porch was covered and free of rain). In the wintertime, a few would always come inside and just hang on the walls. I tried to move the ones that insisted on hanging over my kids’ beds one year, and my 4 year old daughter threw a fit that I would actually put a spider out in the cold where it would die…so the goofy things were allowed their haven every winter. I hope the next owners of that house were as kind.

    That four year old is now 22 and still rescuing various lifeforms, to the extent of convincing me that I “need” an elderly, humongous German Shepherd. Sigh.

  28. slythwolf

    I love these teeny creatures. My sister and I used to play with them as children, letting them crawl over and over our hands. We were big on bugs. Used to have those tent caterpillars, too, the kind that are similar to gypsy moths but not gypsy moths, and in their caterpillar stage they’re fuzzy and we used to wind up covered in them in the back yard. Then my mother would say, “Let’s let them go for a swim,” and drown them in a bucket and then dump them out while we ate lunch oblivious, and my parents would chop branches with their tent-things off the trees and burn them. I guess they didn’t want them to get into the apple tree whose fruit we never ate because they couldn’t be arsed to make sure it didn’t get diseases.

    I’m good with real spiders, too, oddly enough, considering the number of times they’ve bitten me and the time when I was about nine that I had an infected bite swollen to the size of a damn baseball on my thigh, and couldn’t sit down or stand up comfortably and had to get a really painfull shot of antibiotics in the butt. But I think of them as Grandmother Spider who teaches weaving, and I wonder sometimes if she’d be into knitting too if the people she’d been in contact with had had it.

  29. kristi

    Cool! I’ve always loved daddylonglegs. I’ve never seen adults clustered together like that, though. There must be something very attractive about your future abode.

  30. Errihu

    I’m in southern Alberta, Canada.

    I’m not a big fan of tent caterpillars. I’ve seen first hand the damage they can do. Usually you don’t see too many, but every decade or two we have a tent caterpillar “year”, in which there will be billions of the damn things and every leaf on every tree is gone, and many bushes and shrubs die. The highways are slick and dangerous with crushed caterpillar. They’re incredibly destructive. I’m not sure why we have these banner years, perhaps we’ve simply destroyed too many of their natural predators.

  31. Bird

    Tent caterpillars were one of those things that boys used to chase girls around the schoolyard. By virtue of not being afraid of bugs, I was deemed no fun at all.

    Ah, they start young, don’t they?

  32. delagar

    My kid (nine) demanded that I read this post to her(b/c we do like spiders here at house delagar). After I had finished, she continued drawing in silence for a moment, and then declared, with delight, “Twisy found a way to blame the patriarchy with spiders!”

  33. Marcy

    In fact as I’m writing this a wolf spider is climbing the wall towards the shelf I keep my panties on.

    Ack! If I had a wolf spider in my house, I would have to move. I cannot abide hairy bugs. Hair and fur belong on mammals. Those wolf spiders are scary! Ack, again!

  34. Marcy

    I read somewhere that a small but measurable percentage of women have the phobia that a spider will crawl up into the Vagina.

    Not just spiders, but any bug. I sleep without any clothes on–except underwear. I always have panties on, so that I have a barrier for creepy crawlies.

    As I was falling asleep, I thought I felt something crawling up my leg, but I told myself to stop being silly and ignore it. When I awoke, I had a somewhat large-ish striped spider in my pubic hair, crushed by my thunder thighs.

    Oh my god! I would have insomnia for a long time after that. I’d probably have to wear a suit of armor, or at least a chastity belt in order to ever sleep in that bed again.

    Man, all this talk of bugs is making my labia itch.

  35. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Something about them in groups scares me though.

    Of course, this somehow means I hate children.

    Panic, I nearly choked on the pretzel I was munching! Yes, absolutely.

    spiders in groups = scary = Panic hates children

    Very clear, I can totally see that.

    (I’m going to try to do that cool quote thingy, so if it messes up – now, how can I BtP for this one? Oh yeah, html was made up by no-life geekboys whose oblivious-to-all-but-code existence is made possible by mommybotTM.)

  36. Gayle

    Although zoologists accept without blinking an eye that appending the word ‘man’ to the name of a bug is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, it goes without saying that female harvestmen are not called ‘mommylonglegs’ or ‘harvestwomen’. That would be absurd.

    On film crews, the assistant to the Gaffer is called the “Best Boy.” For a brief time, when a female held the Best Boy position, her official title was “Best Boy Person.” Today, women are called “Best Boys”– just like the boys.

    Make of this what you will.

  37. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Those spiders are so totally cool, by the way. They don’t bunch up like that here in Seattle either, though. Not that I’ve seen anyway, round here they’re much more into your lone cowboy, every spider is an island kind of thing.

    Are you sure they weren’t whispering, something about leaping out of the drain en masse like a giant mutant hairball? (Sorry, the Hitchcockian Birds-esque image was too vivid in my brain.)

  38. goblinbee

    Twisty, I think the top photo is especially beautiful–the colors, lines, shapes, light, shadows–I’m impressed you got that with a simple point-and-shoot (my point-and-shoot would do nothing of the kind).

  39. LollytheMonkeh

    They have to be mummylonglegs spiders. They’re graceful, resourceful, hardy and universally despised for no good reason. IBTP, and arachnophobes (of which I regrettably am one…the latter, that is)

  40. Shiloruh

    I encourage spiders in my home. They are clean, quiet, and keep out the riff-raff.
    Cockroaches on the other hand are strictly forbidden from my domicile. I used to tolerate them, but one tried to crawl in my mouth one night whilst I was sleeping. Its Death to them and all their kind now.

  41. kate

    Anyone who would make a living out of stripping and/or laying shingles or any other roofing in the hot sun or ice cold, at all types of heights, to the exclusion of other forms of carpentry is possibly operating with a little less or has less tolerance for learning other more refined skills. Yes, that’s harsh and yes, I know many roofers and find some ok to to work with, but in the trade, its a pretty universal truth: Roofers are Neanderthals.

    As for soffit. A soffit is the portion under the overhang of the rafters. The part of the rafters that juts out beyond the wall, it usually is covered for reasons of weatherproofing and often (at least around here) it is ventilated as well.

    The fascia is the trim on the face of the rafter tails, what you see when you look straight on at the eave sides of the house, just below the roof. The rake is the similar trim on the sides of a gable.

    We find all kinds of wildlife when building or remodeling and the unspoken code followed by all who work with us and for us is that nothing is murdered. All insects, reptiles or other creatures are removed or shooed to safer areas, hopefully before being squished between a 2 x 4.

    Not to say I love all wildlife. Whilst assisting a paniced customer about last month ago to get a Garder snake from her garden, I received two tick bites (found later one with tick still attached) which turned out to both have Lyme’s disease (the characteristic bullseye swelling), which I would not have discovered had I not done done some research online — because the bites wouldn’t stop itching.

    Then I immediately understood why I had been sleeping for the entire week and continuously felt incoherent like I was high. I was lucky and caught it before the disease really set in and got two antibiotic tablets at the hospital which cured it in about a week.

    Set me back $550 by the way. I will never go dashing through tall weeds without a thorough tick-check afterwards and not unless I must, believe me! Also, all ticks get an immediate death sentence once under my control.

  42. MzNicky

    Well, down here in these parts (which incorporates the glorious border state of Tennessee) we call ‘em “grand-daddy-longlegs.” Maybe someone upthread has already said this, I don’t know, I haven’t read all the comments. Which, by the way, only at Twisty’s could a brief post about grand-daddy-long-legs clusters get nigh on 40 comments.

    Most of the folks I am forced by attrition to hang out with are the sort that express astonishment when I opine that routinely poisoning small innocent creatures like spiders, ants, or anything else, really, is jeezus! so much worse, in any way you want to consider, than just leavin’ the pore things be. I don’t even want to bore anyone with the reactions invoked when I get all Buddhist on their asses and mention how every creature was at some point their mother or the whole karma thing that results from untoward smashing/swatting/stomping actions, let alone wholesale poisoning.

  43. pheeno

    Jesus. I have a major phobia of spiders. I can ALMOST handle daddy longlegs…but they’re too spidery like. Pictures alone can send me into a panic attack. Especially if they’re in a book. I can’t even touch the page the picture is on.

  44. Betsy

    Shiloruh,

    At my Granny’s house we had EeNormous wall spiders we called “huntsmen” (IBTP, BTW) and these huntsmen hunted the Eequallynormous cockroaches on the walls at night. The huntsmen were leggedy, brown & furry and the size of a playing card. Just as long and a little bit wider, in fact.

    So I’m on the same page with ya. Spiders yes, roaches HECK no.

    PS One of my niece’s first words was BYSHER (spider). Gotta love the nieces.

  45. Girl Grey

    “I read somewhere that a small but measurable percentage of women have the phobia that a spider will crawl up into the Vagina.

    What? But why?
    Is there a big difference in our physique? I thought on every woman the vagina walls keep closed unless pushed apart. The vagina isn’t a permanently open hole, like, say, a nostril, and there’s no way a bug could get up there. That’s kind of like fearing a bug will crawl up your ass while you sleep.

    Did I help you get over that fear or am I way off base about what women physically have in common?

  46. Anne

    I’ve always had a two-times rule: if I see a spider, I give it a warning. The second time I see it, it’s out (or dead).

    However, living next to an entomologist for the past three years has changed my ways, considerably.

    To see that scene in person: I’d have to leave the area for a while.

    You are so brave, Twisty.

  47. Mau de Katt

    My first thought on seeing those pictures was “How on earth do they untangle their frikkin legs???” Heh.

    I’ve seen daddylonglegs since I was a kid, too, but I never saw them clump like that. Maybe, as others have said before me, it’s a regional/climate thing.

    Australian funnel web spiders, though… egads. I remember reading about those for the first time back in the 90′s, and that article gave me nightmares. I am SO glad I don’t live Down Under. (I read somewhere that the giant spider Shelob, in the movie Return of the King, was modeled after an Australian funnel web spider.)

    Somewhere in my post-pubescent years I developed a severe bug phobia… even a ladybug landing on me would send me into a panic attack. (Which is really bizarre since I loved bugs as a kid… I was one of the girls that was never scared by the boys’ “pets” that they brought to school to scare the girls with….)

    But a while ago I developed a strange compulsion to keep large bugs as pets, and after having a succession of katydids and praying mantii, I eventually moved up into tarantulas. Now I own three of the things. I still hyperventilate if they aren’t in their habitats, but I’ve become a lot more tolerant towards other, smaller spiders now. I will relocate now rather than automatically squish them. But I’m still too phobic to share living quarters with free-range bugs, of any sort.

    (Speaking of tarantulas, the Megasoma actaeon beetle larva may weigh more than a T. blondi tarantula, but the T. blondi is larger in space-taken-up size. Those longer legs, you know. And the T. blondi is definitely cuter than a M. actaeon larva. The adult beetles are really nifty, though.)

  48. I am Also anonymous for this one

    My sister was the scream and squash type until a late teenage epiphany, which revelatory experience eventually lead her to a phD thesis on jumping spiders and their courting displays. Jumping spiders are charming, absolutely charming. I owe my dim knowledge of harvestmen to my lovely sister.

  49. Spinner

    I’m happy to have the Down Under variety of DLLs because if they are in a room of the house then these (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-back_spider) aren’t. Favourite hideouts for Redbacks are dunny seats, kids’ play equipment, pot plants, shoes and the inside of my letter box.
    Fortunately there are no funnel-webs here in the West (although the cane toads are imminent).

  50. badkitty

    After years of enduring a spider phobia, I came to an “agreement” with the spiders that live in my house. They are allowed full range of the basement and I will not kill any I find there. Any spider found in the rest of the house will be squished if they do not show immediate regret and hide. I rarely find spiders anywhere but the basement. Apparently they undertand and respect the agreement.

  51. Sara

    How interesting! And, yes, aesthetically pleasing!

    Does anyone know why they do that?

  52. littoralmermaid

    Oh my goodness.
    I whined about having to catch three little bugs in my room the other day … I think I’ll be quiet now.

  53. Twisty

    I understand that our culture has visited upon some of us the debilitating condition of ‘arachnophobia’, but I am nevertheless sorely disenheartened that whenever I post photos of spidery animals, the responses immediately devolve into a gleeful sub-discussion on killing them. I had to have a shot of tequila when I read the comment about feeding harvestmen into oscillating fans to watch their legs snap off.

  54. Silence

    I love spiders, but I don’t want them crawling on me. That’s probably going to be construed as an anti-child statement too. Oh, well.

    Right now there’s a big gray spider living somewhere on my computer desk. I call her Charlotte and try to keep her out of reach of the cats. Haven’t seen her in a while, so I hope my attempts have not been in vain.

    Part of my reason for liking spiders comes from the novel ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ Yes, it’s anthropomorphic, but if that’s what it takes to make some people sympathetic to the crawly little cuties, so be it. The recent movie of it is pretty good too.

    By the way, I have a friend who had to go to the hospital for an allergic reaction to a spider bite, so I don’t blame her at all for freaking out at the sight of them. Even she has come around to the point where she evicts them rather than killing them. Spiders do us, as a species, a great deal more good than harm. Even the poisonous ones that try to crawl up our vaginas.

  55. Mar Iguana

    “Of course, this somehow means I hate children.” Panic

    Actually, per usual, it’s all your mother’s fault:

    http://allpsych.com/personalitysynopsis/application.html

    “Fears such as arachnophobia originate in early childhood. They are often a representation of an object from childhood that that caused distress. Because the parents, typically the mother, are such a major part of a child’s development, this is often the first place we would look. We would explore their childhood, discuss their dreams, and analyze their relationships, including the therapeutic relationship. Through this analysis we may discover that the fear of spiders actually represents a fear of castration.

    “Seeing one’s mother as powerful and able to take away the power of a child is anxiety provoking. This fear is therefore repressed into the unconscious. It may no longer be recognized but always surfaces in other ways. In this case, it has surfaced as a fear of spiders since anything stuck in a spider’s web is helpless and powerless, just like the client felt as a child with his mother.

    “Once we understand how the fear developed, we can use various techniques to cure the client. One technique might be re-parenting, or perhaps further analysis to create insight into the disorder. By fully understanding and overcoming the true feared object (the mother) we can cure the client of the displaced fear (the spider). Without this understanding, fixing the conscious fear of spiders will only result in the real fear coming out in a different manner.”

    Of course, the standard is male (fear of castration) although we are supposed to feel included because “he” means women also, right?

    “Because the parents, typically the mother, are such a major part of a child’s development, this is often the first place we would look.”

    Often?! What’s the fancy name for the boys’ fear of parenting since they subconsciously know they will be blamed for every nutcase in the world just as mothers are made responsible for every ill?”

    Spiders have free reign at my place. They all have first names with Ocho as their last name; Susie Ocho for instance. She lives in the bathroom. I just knock down their dusty webs when the spirit moves me, which is not all that often.

    The black widow living in my well house is Viuda Negra Ocho, Vi for short. Of course, the boy who came out to fix the pump looked at me like I was out of my mind when I told him to leave Vi be, but after one has gotten that look six million times in her long life, it loses its punch.

  56. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    “That’s kind of like fearing a bug will crawl up your ass while you sleep.”

    That made me spew partially-masticated sweet ripe cantaloupe all over my desk. Don’t forget to insert your buttplugs at bedtime.

    Spiders don’t ickle me at all. Because of the cats, my house isn’t exactly spider-friendly. Out near the clothesline, I’ve seen some large lovely orange-red ones. They spin the prettiest, most complicated-looking, HUGE webs, all the better to catch flying beasties like mosquitoes. This makes them most welcome in my yard.

  57. speedbudget

    Speaking of the “harvestman,” “harvestwoman” debate, I noticed in an AP article that a spokesperson referred to a woman and a spokesman referred to a man. Why not spokesperson for both?

    OK, I will shut up now.

  58. Rumblelizard

    I am not a fan of arachnids, but I do capture and release. I don’t like ‘em at all, and will basically hit the ceiling if I find one crawling on me (especially yellow sac spiders, whose venom I may or may not be violently allergic to). However, I admit spiders’ huge value to the local ecology, so I try not to squoosh ‘em if it can at all be avoided. During my recent porch-painting project, for instance, I gently shooed all spiders off the porch rather than smooshing or painting over them.

    My mom told me once that we’re never more than 8 feet from a spider. Thanks, mom! (shudder)

  59. Frumious B.

    That’s kind of like fearing a bug will crawl up your ass while you sleep.

    I think I know some people who that has happened to.

  60. Sara

    Wow, Frumious, really?

    I guess the upside of that would be that no one could ever justly accuse them of being tight-assed.

  61. pheeno

    Societal conditioning has nothing to do with my severe fear of spiders.

    Sitting happily in my sandbox at age 2 when a horde of them hatched and crawled all over me did it.

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