I know people are scared of spiders. They’re a sort of template for creepy, unnatural monsters. That brilliant old movie The Incredible Shrinking Man has many very scary sequences, but the best is the one with the spider. They seem to represent all the dark, nasty things that lurk in our subconscious. They’re also much better than we are in many ways – not just connected with making webs or knowing the best recipes which have flies as the main ingredient. I don’t know if they have muscles but, whether they do or not, whatever it is that makes them able to scuttle so effectively works much better than our tendons and things.
I’m writing about them because I’ve just had to get rid of one from the bath. I’ve been cleaning the bit of the house I use as a study because it’s also where guests stay when they come (the only occasions when it sees a vacuum cleaner or duster). This spider had been in the bath for about a week (it’s a spare bathroom). I’d seen it every day and marvelled at the fact that it was often in exactly the same place it had been when I’d looked several hours or even a whole day before. We’re incapable of standing still that long and, even if we did, when we eventually decided to move, we’d creak, be racked with pain, stagger and generally feel terrible. But, if they’re disturbed, they can take off at top speed immediately and you don’t hear any spidery cries of ‘Oh shit, that hurts’.
Another thing. When I eventually had to get rid of my creepy visitor, I got a glass, put it over him, slipped a sheet of paper under the glass to keep him in and took him to the front door to let him go. I upended the glass, he fell about four feet (the equivalent of us jumping from the 15th storey I’d guess), landed perfectly without bouncing and took off at Usain Bolt speed right away. Which is all very impressive.
Coincidentally, the following day I heard a spider expert on the radio talking about them. (BTW, don’t quote any of this in your PhD thesis on arachnids because I haven’t checked the facts and may be remembering them wrongly.) I’m sure he said they had 8 eyes, some on top of their head, some in front. In addition to that, the tactics they have to use when they mate could very usefully be employed by most if not all men.
Very wisely, they’re scared stiff of females. Certainly some, if not all, make sure they tap out some great rhythms on her web before they actually sidle up to her. I don’t know if they’re special, agreed signals or the latest in arachnid Zumba routines, but they let her know they’re not a Big Spidery Mac. Makes sense when you think of what the female might do to you otherwise.
And the pièce de résistance is delivered by the one (or maybe more) which has (have) the courtesy and common sense to bring her a gift of a juicy meal. This level of romanticism is rewarded when she’s so busy enjoying it that she doesn’t notice him having his evil way with her as she eats.
We can learn a lot from these enterprising creatures if only we stop squishing them..