Adventures with Arthropods!
I like creepy-crawlies. I was a weird kid who wanted to be an entomologist once upon a time. I used to pretty regularly get bug kits and collecting supplies for birthdays and Christmases. I had an ant farm and once raised six painted lady butterflies; it was rare to fall asleep at night without a jar of fireflies in my room. As an adult, I continue to love insects and spiders and sometimes even regret not pursuing entomology.
Well, I've been having close encounters of the multi-legged kind since spending much of the week so far working outside under a tree that routinely drops them on me. First of all, we have our annual big-ass orange spider; usually, it builds its web across the back door each night and tears it down come morning (and Bobby sometimes sticks his face through it in the morning and the spider runs down the front of his shirt), but this year, it's living under the patio umbrella: a good thing, since it almost eliminates the chance of any running-down-the-front-of-one's-shirt disasters from occurring. It is, of course, living directly over Bobby's usual place at the table. I don't mind them (when they're smallish, like this one), so they inevitably drop down/crawl on him. One of the laws of spiders is that if they know you don't like them, they will drop down on you, even if they have a vast empty space to drop down in.
The other day, I had a big jar of tea out here with me. At one point, I happened to look up at it and am glad that I didn't just blindly reach for it, because perched on it, almost out of sight where I would have grabbed the jar, was a HUGE wheel bug, the biggest I've ever seen at close to 2 inches/5 cm long.
Wheel bugs came from Mother Nature's brief steampunk phase. I took some pictures of my wheel bug with my webcam, but they didn't come out as well, so I will cheat and use a picture off Wikimedia Commons with some pretty flowers to distract from the big honkin scary-looking venomous insect poised upon them.
Wheel bugs are beneficial in the garden, but they will also deliver a bite that is more painful and more venomous than a beesting. (Or so I've read. I've never been bitten by one.) They're pretty sluggish and mostly chill. I think they're cool, but they're something I give a lot of respect, i.e., I don't go about picking them up and move them from the vicinity of humans when I find them there. I never saw them when I was a kid, but we seem to grow them around here and under the Japanese maple specifically, where I frequently encounter the small, bright red early instars, suggesting that they lay their eggs somewhere around here. (A very early instar was crawling on me yesterday.) We had a clutch of wheel bug eggs on the bricks in front of the house when we first moved here; I didn't know what they were at the time.
Back to spiders, yesterday I felt something in my hair and went to brush it out and felt a distinct carapace, and since I couldn't see it and still had that huge wheel bug on my mind, shook out my hair and never found out what it was. Later, I was sitting with Bobby when he first got home and felt something crawling on my arm and looked down: It was a jumping spider, one of the cute fuzzy gray ones. I used to have one in my study that was shy; this one was pretty bold. I brushed it off onto the chair next to me. They have really good vision, and you can see them taking in the world around them. It was watching me, and I was watching it, so I held out a finger about an inch from it. I could see it tilt up its little face to look at my finger. It was touching its face with its pedipalps and looked like it was stroking its beard.
Jumping spiders are almost quantum. They are in one place in one instant and then somewhere else in the next without you ever perceiving that they've jumped. This one must have decided I was safe because, the next thing I knew, it had appeared on the tip of my finger.
I let it crawl up my arm and then brushed it back onto its chair because I didn't want it jumping into my hair, where I might hurt it trying to get it out. Later, I felt something on my neck, brushed it away, and came away with my jumping spider in my hand. (See how it is now "my" jumping spider?) Last night, Bobby was sitting in its chair, and I kept hoping it wouldn't crawl on him because he has the normal human reflex of slapping at a critter crawling on him before seeing what it is, and I didn't want him to kill it. But it never appeared. Yet first thing this morning, I felt something on my ear, brushed at it, and there was my jumping spider.
I put it back on its chair, but I don't see it right now. I'm sure I'll find it crawling on me later.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!