Growing up in Zululand, we had an enormous hibiscus hedge along the home property. Someone, I don't remember who, must have thought it a perfect place for a mailbox, placed it carefully on a handy branch, and there it stayed through all the years. You'd just pull out the mail when it came. It was very efficient.
One day I inserted my hand, pulled out the mail,and felt something fluffy and soft. It was a tarantula. It didn't bite. I didn't scream. We just looked at each other for a second, then I capitulated and dropped the mail. I remained in shock for a while. That creature was just so...well, robust! Ihave to admit, they do have very weird eyes! I must say I never forgot the impact it had on me.
Have no illusions though. Spider bites can be serious business. I was bitten on the leg once as a teen, and to this day the skin there is hard, white and unappealing.but generally speaking, spiders are quite friendly, as long as you don't bother them,
Back to the babies. I have seen spider infants before of course, and they're interesting, but I was in a garden center the other day, and there, on a little tomato plant leaf, was an amazing crowd of tiny hatching spiders! They were positively jewel like, bright golden little things. As I watched, they began to move about. I was just enchanted to see they immediately began to work, using their spinnerets for the first time, making a fine thread of silk. I wondered if anyone else would notice them, but no, they were just busy looking at the plants!
I like my garden spiders. They just do what spiders do - make webs, eat anything smaller than themselves. This year I even had to forgive them for eating a batch of my mason bees as they hatched. But unlike some folks who kill them on sight, I would never squish one.
So what’s special and useful about spiders?
- They eat and control populations of house and garden pests we don't like, such as roaches, moths and earwigs. They'll even eat other spiders, which doesn't seem very nice, but they must have their reasons.
- Spiders are voracious consumers of pests that otherwise would eat our food crops. In their own way they're as important as bees. We would die wiithout either of these little creatures.
- Spider silk is the strongest fiber known. Academic studies show the intense research inspired by this substance, and scientists have produced artificial silk based on how the spider manufactures its silk. Their results show that this silk may potentially be used for bulletproof vests and parachutes.
- The powerful Black Widow spider will only bite in self defence. But the strength of her venom is startling, and again is providing the impetus for medical research.
Still not convinced? Spiders might be able to fatten your wallet too!
If you see a spider drop down near you, don't panic. Spiders are believed to bring money to those lucky enough to watch it without flinching.