I operate my writing, editing and proofreading business from home and was taking a much-needed break in the garden when I made this heart-stopping discovery.
Rooted to the spot I stared and shuddered. It had a yellow and black scalloped abdomen and black striped legs – and what was that strange zig-zag stitching down the middle of its web?
Two weeks later another ‘shriek’ moment. I discovered her buddy in the opposite corner of the garden, close to my study window. This spider was not as elaborate as the first, but he was suspended plonk in the middle of an enormous web. If I had walked into that I doubt if I would have survived the shock. The thought of it still freaks me out. (I assume the first spider I came across, which is bigger and more elaborately marked, is a female and the second a male.)
What should I do with them? I believe in live and let live, so killing them is out of the question. Besides, they are good for the garden and keep down insect numbers. And I wouldn’t dare get close enough to give them a swat. If they stay where they are, great, but if they move any closer to home…
Did they have to choose such an in-your-face place to weave their webs? Now that I know they are there, I am unable to stop myself from checking up on them, constantly. This is time consuming, but I have to know where they are at all times. They move with great speed to pounce on any hapless insect tangled in their webs. I imagine them moving into my home – I am not a great fan of arachnids – and the thought spirals me into a panic attack.
After taking some pics (which I have uploaded here), I hastened to my good friend Google. From what I gather they belong to the Yellow Garden Orb-Weavers species (Argiope australis) and are harmless to man. They weave large webs that look as if they have writing down the middle, hence another name for them: writing spider. These zig-zag bands of silk help stabilise the web and, interestingly, some experiments have shown the bands advertise their presence to birds, allowing them to avoid the web. I am no expert on spiders and identifying species, and suggest anyone wanting more information do a web search.
Frighteningly, I understand the female can produce up to 9 000 eggs. Although only about two percent apparently survive to maturity, it is still far too many spiders for me to imagine. Crawling around in my garden? And of course, the poor male gets no satisfaction from mating. He clambers down onto her abdomen while she is eating, mates with her, and then retreats hastily before she consumes him as well.
Man’s fascination with spiders goes back to ancient times. Spiders and their webs have featured prominently in mythological fables, cosmology, artistic spiritual depictions and folklore. Many writers and authors use spiders (in various guises and themes) in their books, poems, songs, children’s tales, comics, film and television. Reference to them today thrives in information technology (websites, web crawler, World Wide Web) and PC games.
In some cultures spiders are a sign of good luck, which I am fervently hoping will be true for me. I recently retired from the formal work sector and moved into freelancing. Any good indicator would be most welcome.
Freelancing can be an unpredictable up-and-down occupation that requires a great deal of patience, persistence, determination and self-confidence. From what I see, my spiders show many of the qualities every freelancer should have, especially the bit about patience. I will definitely take a leaf out of their books. If you are interested, I discuss my first year as a freelancer in my article Gearing up for freelancing.
So, I will tolerate my creepy, scary eight-legged friends as long as they leave me alone and don’t get too close. I will deal with the possibility of 200 baby spiders making it to maturity in spring, if and when they arrive. I hope my new garden inhabitants are a favourable omen. Meanwhile, I will be looking up on how to entice lizards, bats and birds (bigger than my Mossies) into my garden. I won’t go down the road of enticing bigger spiders into my domain to control my problem, should it become a problem…