Thursday, April 24, 2014

Along Came A Spider

My husband came into the house a few weekends ago and shouted, "I found a Brown Recluse spider in the garage! It was in my work clothes."

My initial thought was, 'Yeah, sure you did,' and I admit that I secretly suspected it was absolutely for certain a case of mistaken identity on the part of my husband.

He bellowed, "You want to see it? I have it in a jar."

I went to take a look and could not remember what a Brown Recluse looked like (and it surely wasn't one even if I did know), so I didn't get too excited. He showed me the violin shape and seemed confident. I did a silent pshaw in my head and he continued on outside to do some more work in the garage.

I Googled it.

Damn the luck. My husband was right! It did exactly match the images of a Brown Recluse, violin on its back and all. OMG. He really did find a Brown Recluse in our garage!

But, I digress. Let's talk about fear. This calls for a list!

  1. If there is one Brown Recluse, there are more. Probably lots more. Think Arachnophobia, the movie.
  2. They're "moving in" and this is the first of many we'll encounter. No way was this little gem just on vacation at Brown Station and passing through. He's got family and they're all coming to live at Chez Brown.
  3. I will eventually be bitten. Why? Because that's my life, that's why. Bugs love me. I am their queen.
  4. They're in the house; everywhere, in every dark corner, just waiting for my unsuspecting finger or toe.
  5. They're in my pillowcase and my head is going to rot off.
I distinctly remember a few weeks ago, just prior to this special find in our garage, when I proudly announced in my Sunday School class that I had practically conquered my fear of spiders. Really! I have worked hard to not fear creepy crawly things that glide silently through the night, especially since contracting Lyme disease. However, we live here:

I live in the heart of the woods. It's beautiful. It's also filled with creepy crawlies which display various levels of fear-striking capabilities. I've posted about them before. Remember the snake post of 2012? Yep, I live in Blair Witch-ville. I've kind of had to learn to adapt.

I thought I had conquered my fear of such things. Yeah, I thought that right up until I realized my husband was right and we actually did have a Brown Recluse on our property.

I had to send myself back to fear-conquering school. Sessions are held regularly in my brain, if you'd like to attend. There's a sign-up sheet in my Thalamus, right next to the Hippocampus.

If you're not familiar with the Brown Recluse, here is a quick lesson. They look like the two photos below and the venom will cause your flesh to rot and die as though you have contracted a flesh-eating bacteria if you are bitten by one. Go ahead on over to Google and look at the images if you want to really freak yourself out.

This first photo is the one my husband took. I wasn't satisfied. With the most extreme caution you've ever seen, I removed the red metal lid from the glass Lay's dip jar (which the spider later met an untimely death within) and carefully slid my phone in place of the lid. While praying that the spider would not leap onto my phone and go bananas trying to escape, thus likely biting me in the process, I took this picture:

I know, right? Mine is way better and far creepier. Thank God I risked life and limb to obtain it for you, my loyal and inquisitive readers, whom I knew would want yet another public service announcement from Everyday Underwear. You can see quite clearly the violin shape near the head, which is an identifier.

I'll let Wikipedia tell you the deets about its habitat:

"Brown recluse spiders build asymmetrical (irregular) webs that frequently include a shelter consisting of disorderly thread. They frequently build their webs in woodpiles and sheds, closets, garages, plenum spaces, cellars, and other places that are dry and generally undisturbed. When dwelling in human residences they seem to favor cardboard, possibly because it mimics the rotting tree bark which they inhabit naturally. They have also been encountered in shoes, inside dressers, in bed sheets of infrequently used beds, in clothes stacked or piled or left lying on the floor, inside work gloves, behind baseboards and pictures, in toilets, and near sources of warmth when ambient temperatures are lower than usual. Human-recluse contact often occurs when such isolated spaces are disturbed and the spider feels threatened. Unlike most web weavers, they leave these lairs at night to hunt. Males move around more when hunting than do females, which tend to remain nearer to their webs. The spider will hunt for firebrats, crickets, cockroaches, and other soft-bodied insects."

Truly, it had never occurred to me that I might find one of these on my property. As is common in life, even though I knew they existed in Illinois, I couldn't quite imagine the reality of one until I was faced with one of my very own.

Excellent. More life lessons, learned through experience. Yay. That's how my life is and it is both a blessing and a curse. Forced knowledge is a blessing. Forced experiential knowledge you didn't agree to is the part that feels like a curse.

Just previous to this incident, I had bragged that when I find a spider on my body or in my immediate life area, I very calmly take it outside and deposit it back into the nature from whence it came or I open the door and ceremoniously flick it calmly into the ether. Now, I think I might freak out and scream like a little girl if I see anything resembling this beast.

The changes I've seen?


  • Throw on shoes without a care
  • Pick up cardboard without a care
  • Move freely about the garage without a care
  • Work in the yard with dead leaves and wood without a care
  • Use the toilet in the dark without a care
  • Do anything without a care
  • Check shoes visually, smash toes for good measure
  • Gingerly pick up cardboard with the edge of my finger and inspect fully
  • Avoid garage, especially dark corners
  • Avoid yard, especially creepy death areas
  • Pee with ALL LIGHTS ON!
  • Um... care.
For four years, I have lived in this place and not feared a spider. I've worked to stay calm when I encounter them. I've rationalized, "They aren't going to bite me unless they feel threatened, they eat insects (so they're actually beneficial), and they are more scared of me than I am of them."

Now I am second guessing myself and wondering if I knew what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks I was talking about. Should I be extra cautious with everything? Fear what I had learned to accept? Become paranoid of nature's creatures? I live in their world. I chose that. So, to keep my sanity, the answer has to be no. I can't let fear control me. I try to live by this new rule and I refuse to let this spider change my life's philosophies.

But you can be assured that I'm still checking my shoes and peeing with the lights on. Shudder!

P.S. My husband also burned the article of work clothing he found the Brown Recluse in. Eeeks!


  1. Good to be cautious, but paranoia is crippling. Met a 60 year old urbanite who had never taken a walk in the woods, and said he never intended to. He was afraid to go in there.

  2. I have goosebumps just reading this piece. I am literally wincing. I'm going to be afraid to sit on the toilet in the middle of the night for the rest of my life!!!

  3. That is scary stuff, Cindy! Do you have to get an exterminator or just catch them as you go?

  4. Seriously awesome post that had me sitting on the edge of my chair. I sprayed some baby brown thing last week that had a super resilient thread. Wonder if it was related to these horrific creatures. My backyard is all mulch--so based on your Wikipedia thing they love rotting tree bark. Omg. I am in trouble. It's spring. Nice knowing you.

  5. Oh, man. That would set me back in my spider therapy (yet another thing we have in common!). Lia and I were home alone today, minding our own business doing homework, folding laundry when a spider just crawled right on my (5'9") baby. In order to save her, I had to run out of the room to grab a paper towel. But I did it. I killed that attacking arachnid dead! But next time, I hope one of the spider assassins is home because I'd much rather be the one ordering the hit than carrying it out. And btw, I believe brown recluse spiders are solitary - they prefer to live miles and miles from each other except when they mate, which they like to do in open fields. Trees kill the mood libido and baby recluse are actually afraid of large trees. I'm sure you are safe! :)

  6. Oh boy Cindy - Mr. Spider has taken control of Chez Brown! I wish I had words of wisdom for you but quite frankly, I would be just as creeped out...if not more! In fact if it happened here my daughter would probably insist we move into a hotel! O the bright side, it made for a great blog post!