RIP #16…


The other morning I read of the passing of the world’s oldest spider.

Researchers dubbed the female trapdoor spider “#16”.

She had been discovered in her burrow in 1974 by researchers in the unclear, native brush land of the Australian outback.

These scientists had been keeping an eye on the 8-legged, hairy spider after discovering her during a spider population study.

Suddenly an image of someone in a short-sleeved dress shirt, carrying a clipboard comes to mind.

“Knock, knock”.

“Yes, who is it?”

“It’s the Australian spider population study. If you’the homeowner, we’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“Fine. Give me a minute. Let me get my slippers on.”

(This will take a few moments because spider have eight legs, you know.)

(I also wondered about how the Australian spider population spokesperson found the spider’s trapdoor to knock on since I thought they were somewhat camouflaged.)

Nonetheless, #16 out-lived the previous record-holder, a Mexican tarantula that lasted to the ripe, old age of 28.

Normally, trapdoor spiders live anywhere from 5 to 20 years and #16 was taken out by a wasp sting.

This happened almost a year ago but I figured it took all this time to notify next of kin.

Bites from these trapdoor spiders are non-toxic to humans and normally, these creatures are fairly timid.

They just hang out in their burrows and ambush predators that stroll by their homes.

Trapdoor spiders eat a variety of insects while some varieties will dine on baby birds, baby snakes, mice, millipedes and such.

Species living around water will even eat frogs or small fish.

Sounds like something a bit more ravenous than that “Itsy Bitsy Spider” that went up the water spout before the rains came down and washed him out, prior to the sun coming out, drying up all the rain and the spider trying to .make the trip again.

Remember that little thing you did with your fingers while reciting that rhyme?

Plus, outside of Jim Stafford’s “Spiders and Snakes” song from 1974, I guess we aren’t really crazy with singing about spiders.

Would I be safe in saying most of us don’t really like spiders?

I guess it’s tied to our lack of tolerance to anything with more than 4 legs.

Maybe if spiders only had 4 legs, we’d welcome them into our homes like we do cats and dogs.

Remember that movie “Arachnaphobia” a few years ago?

We watched that one evening and I excused myself to go to the bathroom.

But what I actually did was scatter tony, black plastic spiders all over the bathroom.

Imagine the shrieks by women produced when they saw them!

Actually, on the “squeamish list”,  I rank  centipedes ahead of spiders.

See, there’s that “leg” factor again.

Like “Spiderman”, my wife has her own “spidey-sense.

She can spot a spider from 100 yards and has been known to keep an eye on one to make sure it doesn’t move  until I come home and she “sics” me on it.

Most times, a paper towel will do the job.

But can I just roll up the towel and throw it away>

Oh, no!

I have to ball it up and toss it in her direction, prompting a shriek and “the look” which all married men are familiar with.

Now, those big, hairy critters we often observe in the garage or backyard have to be dispatched with a properly placed foot.

But they can be frisky critters that might dodge you for a step or two before they become one with the concrete.

Years ago, when we tent-camped, we discovered that “Daddy Log Legs” liked to congregate inside the cardboard tube of our paper towels.

I got somewhat adept at picking up those paper towel tubes and giving a little “Puff” of air, sending those 8-legged trespassers scurrying.

It was important to remember to “inhale” before placing your lips near the tube.

A also recall Daddy Long Legs had a bit of a strange aroma, too.

They probably weren’t crazy about my “tent-camping breath” either.

There used to be an “old wive’s tale” regarding Daddy Long Legs having fangs and being poisonous. I guess they do have fangs but they’re pretty small and couldn’t penetrate human skin.

My Cleveland Indians used to be known as the “Spiders’ because there was time the roster was filled with lots of slender, skinny-legged ballplayers.

Why folks didn’t call them the “Storks” or “Cranes”, I’ll never know. You can still find them along the shores of Lake Erie.

You can also find spiders there, too.

But I digress.

We bid a fond “adieu” to old “#16” after 43 wonderful years in Australia.

I feel like I  ought to send flowers.

Or maybe an insect.

Perhaps a memorial service with a dramatic reading by…whe else? Jack Webb!

Maybe I’ll just knock on that trapdoor and run.



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