I’ve never been a big fan of what taxonomists describe as creepy crawlies (interestingly, there is a whole subsection of this species that have wings, and so are not full-time creepers or crawlers. I still don’t like them). If it can ever be described as scuttling or scurrying, then I would rather give it a wide berth. Then I moved onto a boat, and slowly started to come round to spiders, and their many uses. Well, one use, namely catching other creepy crawlies. My local spiders are doing their best to cull the cloud of midgies buzzing about outside my front door. The success of their campaign is on public display on several webs, sagging under the weight of the sheer numbers of insects it has entrapped (the arachnid equivalent of displaying heads on spikes?) I would characterise my relationship with my eight-legged lodgers as one of uneasy mutual respect. Until now.
I woke up a few days ago and noticed an odd white patch on the ceiling. My first thought was that it was a manifestation of yet another hole (my default setting for unexplained phenomena on the boat); possibly some sort of mould which had grown due to the damp conditions of that particular plank of wood? I grabbed a pack of wet wipes to help me clean up the mould (though as I type, I wonder at my logic of trying to solve a damp problem with a damp cloth), and swiped at it. It was at that point I noticed several fine threads emanating from the odd white growth, and the dozens of tiny spiders scurrying around my ceiling (it could also be described as scuttling). I didn’t hesitate, and swiped at all of them with a fresh wet wipe. By this point, I was a woman on a crusade, searching out webs and wiping them away (it didn’t take that much searching – my spiders have not been particularly covert and have anchored webs to almost anything, including between a tea towel and kettle). I was efficient and merciless. I covered the tracks of the annihilation by throwing the wet wipes of doom straight in the large refuse disposal bin at the other end of the marina (lest any survivors try to crawl back). It was only as I sat down with a cup of tea afterwards that tinges of guilt crept up on me.
When I was a child, one of my favourite books had been Charlotte’s Web (if you have not read it, I would recommend that you stop reading the blog RIGHT NOW and go to get a copy. Read on at your peril; there are spoilers.) I had been very upset at Charlotte’s passing, but at least she had left descendants to keep Wilbur company. Descendants that were born from a white egg sac, which may have, in the right light, resembled a patch of mould. I had not murdered dozens of tiny spiders, I had murdered dozens of tiny baby spiders. Barely had they spun their first line of silk, and they were finished. No chance to create intricate webs, maybe one day spelling out ‘some boat’ or ‘radiant’ in a corner of Double Fracture. I had ruined any chance I might have had of forging an arachnid friendship that might one day save my life, as Charlotte saved Wilbur’s. This remorse was compounded a few days later, when I spied a web constructed on my open kitchen window, which had caught a mosquito. Despite my crimes, the spiders were still protecting me from blood sucking fiends, and potentially (albeit unlikely) malaria.
It’s been a low point in boat life.
This blog post was brought to you by ‘Neighbourhood‘ by Space (off the album ‘Spiders’).
I did some cursory research for this blog post, and learned that spiders’ legs work using hydraulics. And some species use this system for their genitals as well.