BOS 09 21 2022 doublesize
The other day, I felt a slight itching on my arm just above the elbow. Pulling up the sleeve I found a bump like a mosquito bite except bigger and not quite round. Touching the spot caused it to sting. Not a mosquito bite. Because I had not felt it happen, it had not been a bee or a wasp. A spider then. I had worn short sleeves earlier in the day, so a spider would have had easy access. I had not seen it and was a bit freaked.

There are a lot of spiders here. At the farm, we had mostly daddy longlegs, and in our packing, we brought a few here. These we mostly found, and the house is clear of them. We see a few outside, part of the local fauna.

Among the rocks on the shore lives a hunting spider. Disturb a rock as you are walking, and a black spider about the size of a quarter scurries away to hid under the next stone. Last week, I found three in the house. I assume they hitched a ride on someone’s shoe. They were easy enough to catch as they could not find anything to hide under.

There are smaller spiders in the corners of the house under furniture and outside among the garden plants. These are easy to clear away in the house, and easy to leave alone out in the garden. There are wisps of web on the cedar trees, but I have not been able to figure out what makes them.

What we have on our property that is not a danger but a bit startling are yellow garden spiders. The leg-span on these is bigger than a twoonie and the body is quite large. They spin incredible webs, sometimes stretching large distances. They love to build between the cedars where the structure of their webs is visible.

The day we looked at this place—it had been vacant for four months—we counted over a hundred of these in the yard. When we moved in, I did something I had never done before: sprayed. The population is much more controlled now, though they are the spider we see most often, apart from those black ones.

This year, two started to build their webs right beside the faucets I use to water the garden all the time. I broke their webs, sprayed them with water, trying to discourage them from being in my face. There is one against the house near the outside stairs we don’t use very often.

When I was trimming the dead flower stalks of the hostas, I came across a large moth struggling in a web. The spider was right there trying to control it. The web was attached to two flower stalks. I didn’t know what to do. If I cut the stalks, the web would fall. If I disturbed the web, the moth was likely still done for. It was a bit disturbing to watch the struggle, but for a moment I couldn’t decide. Finally, I went with the task I had set out to do, tidying up the garden. The moth and spider fell together. I assume that the spider was fed.

That spider was also more vulnerable to the toads that are abundant in our garden this season, more than I remember from other years. When I work among the veggies, a toad often jumps out of the way. Maybe both moth and spider fed one of these.

We have an eastern phoebe spending time in our yard. This is a bird that eats insects and spiders, and some of the yellow garden spiders sit right out where a phoebe can easily catch them.

My spider bite stopped stinging in a day, and the bump was gone in a few. The spiders are busy catching insects, some of which I would consider pests. And they are feeding creatures who are beneficial to the gardens. Some of the smaller toads are feeding snakes, but let’s leave snakes out of the story for now, though some of the small ones I see may be hunting spiders.

Like them or not, the spider has a place in the complex ecosystem I am part of. Remove them, and other creatures would suffer.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation


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