Tolerating reptiles in the garden
Published on Sunday, October 2, 2022 at 10:30 am
Last week he was having trouble in the yard, pacing around, arms shaking, and making choking noises.
Now, I’m not bothered by garden snakes, lizards, tomato hornworms, praying mantids, bumblebees, bats or most other garden bugs in the least. Not even the giant, very strange “Hickory Horned Devil” caterpillar (shudder). But when I disturb a wasp’s nest, or run into a spider’s web, I have an instantaneous, aversive, cellular-level reaction.
My mom’s warnings about black widows in the wood pile, me poking my head through wasp nests in my preschool playground fort, yellow jackets chasing me after I mow their nests, and my dad’s long legs (which technically don’t exist). Spiders) Boy Scout Summer Camp in my tent. And maybe when she was introduced to The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien as a child, the great spiders of Mirkwood that eat him, and Shelob and the big and unnatural.
And no, it didn’t help that I learned about the enormous utility of these voracious predators in the garden, eating many moths, grasshoppers, flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, beetles, stink bugs and other insects. In birds and bats. This would help me to keep them in principle, as long as I know where they are.
I’ve generally learned to leave the ones outside alone, and the ones that come into my closet are sneered at outside, pressed into drinking glasses.
Fortunately, I don’t have brown recluse spiders like the ones that crawled around the old farmhouse when I was in graduate school. Because the only indoor spiders I have these days are the ones that leave barely visible cobwebs hanging from my ceiling, reminding me to vacuum. And I appreciate the impetuous behavior of the little hairy jumping spider that hangs near my computer, swatting fruit and other flies that escape from my fruit bowl. When I put my finger on it and say, “Bring it on, big boy,” it rises up.
In the garden, I love watching the wolf spider in the grass and the spiders in the tool, the incredibly beautiful green lynx spiders lying on the zinnias and other flowers waiting for their prey. And I’ve somewhat overcome my arachnophobia around the large orb weaver spiders spread out between the house and some bushes, though how they manage to catch wasps, small lizards and the occasional hummingbird.
The most common are the thumb-sized noisy yellow and black garden spiders and the equally large and long-legged but more slender “golden silk orb weavers” with orange bodies and yellow and black legs with small black hairs on each leg joint.
None of them are harmful, except for the scary ones, and they stay put until I know where they are. Although their bite contains a bit of venom that stings like a bumblebee, the only risk of being bitten is if you pick one up. Right. Don’t do it.
Usually there are only one or two or more in a garden, but that’s about to change. The Asian eared spider, a very large orb weaver with a bright yellow body, was discovered in Georgia about ten years ago. Although not yet found in Mississippi, it is spreading rapidly this way, and there will be dozens of them when it does.
It’s time to grab a spider stick for a walk through the yard and out into the woods. In the meantime, if you heard me scream, you know what happened.
Felder Rushing Mississippi is an author, columnist and host of “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions. firstname.lastname@example.org.