« Replipublican? | Main | That Must Be Nice, Vol. 1 »

A Deepness on My Porch

We've got some very large spiders around the house this fall. Literally around the house, spinning webs above the garbage cans out back, near the grill as usual, and most particularly around the the front porch railing. These are big spiders, an inch or so across in legspan. They leave beautiful round webs at least a foot in diameter. Sometimes a spiders waits in the center of its web; other times they must hide nearby. I'm pretty sure these spiders are of the orb variety, and therefore harmless. The only spiders I'm genuinely afraid of are black widows and brown recluses. The former are fairly nasty but generally don't do lasting damage, but the latter have a venom which causes large necrotizing wounds which just spread and spread and spread ...

As a child I found insects fascinating, but as the years have gone by I've slowly become more and more squeemish. First it was earwigs that grossed me out. Then junebugs. Silverfish are unpleasant, centipedes much more so. And if we ever had cockroachs I'd probably torch the place. Spiders only bother me above a certain size (and these spiders are all that and more) but I can't bring myself to kill one, and I've actually felt guilty the few times I've swept out one of their ill-positioned nests.

I'm not sure why the spiders have chosen us this year. The summer was odd: first the cicadas showed up, then we had an infestation of cicada killer wasps in the front yard (and up and down our street). Yellowjackets are all over the place. When both light bulbs blew out on the front porch I decided to try those yellow bulbs which are supposed not to attract bugs at night. Apart from the creepy yellow murk these things produce I'm beginning to wonder whether they are instead attracting insects that were once kept away by the old white bulbs. Could our spiders be nocturnal feeders that eschewed our bright porch in previous years?

A few weeks ago I went out the front door to go repark the car and I found yet another new neighbor lurking on the railing: a preying mantis which had to be six inches long. I like mantids; elegent, emerald, fascinating creatures they are.
But let me tell you, when a six-incher suddenly takes to the air like a gyrocopter a few feet in front of you it's one hell of a shock.


My condolences about your spider infestation and don't have a clue about the yellow vs. white light idea, but I do envy you the sight of that mantis!

The Russian word for 'praying mantis' is bogomol, literally 'god-pray.' (The word for a devout person is bogomolets, slightly different.) They are splendid creatures!

Which reminds me that I spelled it "preying" mantis. Though also true (if perhaps redundant) and though both spellings see use, Googlewar suggests that "praying" is more common.

I think you are very lucky. As far as I've read and seen, widows and recluses like to hide up under and inside places and things. An orb spider, you are right, which places its net open to the air currents, even though it be under a ledge, poses no danger.

What kind of insects are they feeding on mostly? Can you tell?

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)