Apologies to anyone who has a phobia of spiders – this isn’t the start of a series, I promise!
My sweetheart is scared enough of spiders to quiver and let out a loud, high-pitched squeal when he sees one. If a spider imprudently reveals itself indoors, I am called upon to relocate it using an upturned glass and piece of card.
Strangely, some spiders don’t give rise to that instinctive reaction. For instance, he’s developed a nodding acquaintance with a large spider that lives in a corner of my shed. He admires the little, sturdy jumping spiders for their feisty attitude, observing that if you attempt to scare one off, it holds its ground and sticks its front arms up in a boxer-like stance so it seems to be saying “I don’t think so!”.
And I ought to confess that this spider scared me more than it did him. It was hanging around with the right crowd: we found it suspended face high on a web in woodland outside Mississippi’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks last autumn.
The mere size of this golden silk orb-weaver spider was alarming to someone more familiar with a money spider. My memory may be exaggerating, but suggests that it was nearly as big as my hand and certainly bigger than the only fish I’ve ever caught with a rod (even though I was top angler that day). And it was yellow. I can’t remember seeing a yellow spider before. The subconscious mind runs along the lines of yellow and black = wasp or bee = potential sting, then the conscious mind starts replaying all the stories you’ve ever heard about venomous creatures. Well, mine did.
My sweetheart said it was a garden spider, nothing to be scared about, and not poisonous to humans, although Wikipedia cautions these are so large that “…any bite can cause some mechanical damage”. He glossed over that bit.
These spiders are also known as banana spiders, though I don’t know if that’s because they live in banana trees, often travel with bananas, look like bananas, or all three. I loved how its colours complemented the autumn foliage and how it seemed to be using a leaf as a parasol.
The spider had its thoughts on something else, and was hanging languidly, displaying its long, gartered legs, unperturbed by the close attentions of a couple of humans brandishing iPhones. You might observe it had a better sense of proportion than I did.
My mum, the family arachnophile, once won extra kudos by being happy to hold a large tarantula when a naturalist offered her the chance. I’m not sure how keen she would have been to hold this one: I’ll have to ask her!