8 Legs and a Red Hourglass…

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster …

Home remodeling can be an outdoor as well as an indoor adventure.

So when some pleasant fall weather persisted in our world, I decided to take apart the final portion of a wooden deck in our backyard.

It hadn’t rained for weeks so I knew I wouldn’t be wallowing in damp soil, much less mud.

Since my Father-in-law and I had constructed this section of deck in three pieces, we carried them to the backyard to attach to the screened-in porch floor.

He used nails, while I now prefer treated wood screws. I had to use my trusty pry bar and hammer in the process of disassembly.

Interestingly enough, many of the nails had basically corroded away and several of the 2×6’s were pretty much held in place by a few nails or pieces thereof and the lumber on either side.

It was a sunny but chilly late morning when I started and I had pretty much finished taking one section apart when I noticed something in the corner by the screened-in room.

I looked closely but just to make certain I wasn’t hallucinating, I called for my wife to secure a second opinion.

“What’s that in the corner?” I queried.

“Wow! It looks like a black widow spider!!” she exclaimed.

As a youngster, I used to pour over books about bugs and such and remember seeing

black widow spiders in print.

So, all these years later, when I saw that shiny, black, eight-legged critter with an amazing bright red hourglass shape on it, I knew what I was looking at.

First of all, I was surprised that black widows would even be in southern Indiana but I learned they’re pretty much everywhere…except Antarctica.

That’s probably good because could you imagine the expense of needing 4 pairs of snow boots?

They come from the broadly-distributed genus of spiders known as Latrodectus, or the true widows.

Most live 1-3 years and they like to nest near the ground in dark, undisturbed areas.

This deck area fit that bill for over 25 years.

Now there are several varieties of North American black widows.

They have poor eyesight and rely on sensing vibrations when prey gets caught in their web.

Why are they called black widows?

I thought it was because of their bite and they made “widows” or “widowers” of victims.


Nothing that dramatic.

They’re called widows because they often devour the male after mating.

However, only bites from the females can be dangerous to humans.

But, the ladies aren’t very aggressive,

When trapped, they’ll often “play dead” or flick some silk at you.

They only bite when they cannot escape a threat.

But, statistics indicate while some 2,200 Americans are bitten every year by black widows, most don’t even need medical attention.

Now, back to the guy spiders.

I understand that the smart ones will often seek out a lady after determining if she’s recently eaten.

Seems like single black widow guys and gals might be seen at the restaurants, with hopes of determining a nice evening after dining.

Now, after our “spidey” encounter my wife wished a had gotten a photo of our arachnid.

I was more concerned on keeping an eye on those eight legs although, in hindsight, the cool weather probably made it sluggish, at best.

So, after we agreed it was a black widow spider, I sent it to spider heaven with a carefully directed blow from my 6 pound hammer.

I fully expect an inquiry from the BWLF (Black Widow Liberation Front).

It might be wise to secure legal counsel.

Would “The Hammer” be a wise choice?

Or, “It’s just that easy?”

Suffice it to say I moved a little more carefully when removing the remaining boards and sweeping off the many spider webs.

And the area where the black widow was located has been sprayed generously with various sprays.

Over the past 2+years, this deck-replacement project has resulted in the recovery numerous trinkets.

There was a rabbit skull and a few other bones, ,along with a few beer bottle caps and pull tabs from adult liquid beverages consumed during construction breaks.

I even found a snake skin.

But the black widow spider was something different.

It forced me to read more about them and while my earlier fears were eased a bit, I still don’t think I want to keep one as a pet.

I used to catch praying mantises as a kid and feed them insects but I didn’t realize that the females often bite off the males’ heads after mating.

My wife never even hinted at that after our three daughters.

There are days though she might wish she had.

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