This week, reporting live from my front porch…
As I was watering the plants on our front porch, I saw theshiny black spider, busily spinning a translucent white covering around herbeige egg sac. I could tell she was badnews from her markings: a red hour-glass shape on her abdomen. She was a blackwidow spider and that itsy bitsy egg sac, all of maybe a half inch indiameter, containedbetween 200 and 400eggs or more.
Black widow spiders get their name from the female’s supposedtendency to eat the male after mating. In reality, most males escape this fate because they:
Change the floor plan of her house. Females have very poor vision; they detect dinner,whether it is a trapped insect or approaching male, through the vibrations intheir web. So before getting too close,the male cuts her web and rearranges it. The female is “blinded” and no longer knows how to get quickly from onespot to another, thus giving the male time to get away.
Alter her mood. Malesvibrate their abdomen against her web; these vibrations relax her and make herless aggressive.
Put obstacles in her way. Before mating, the male spins a light silky web around the female. Know as the “bridal veil”, this sheath delaysthe female for a short time, but long enough for the male to make his escape.
But as much as I appreciate these spiders’s ingenuity, I hada decision to make. Do I kill the spiderand destroy the egg sac, or “live and let live”? If this were in “the wild”, I would beinclined to let her be. But this was on ourfront porch, where our visitors could be at risk. Female spiders are aggressive when disturbedand their bite will inject a potent neurotoxin, 15 times more potent than arattlesnake’s venom. Even though theamount of venom is tiny and the mortality rate is estimated at less than 1%,the victim will still experience painful abdominal cramping and nausea.
So I made my decision: this particular spider and her descendents will not be climbing up mywater spout again.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, September 20, 8:00 AM. Early morning bird hike at TowsleyCanyon.
For maps and directions, click here.
Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and ConservationAuthority.
Saturday, September 20, 8:00-11:00AM. River Rally and Clean Upand Environmental Expo.
You may register on site but must turn in a signedwaiver. For more information click here.
Sponsored by the City of Santa Clarita,KHTS, The Signal, The Daily News, Trader Joes, Burrtec, CliffBars, LA CountyBicycle Coalition, WestfieldValencia Town Center Mall, Starbucks Coffee, and CleanStreet.
Saturday, September 27th, and every Wednesday, 8:00 am. Trail Maintenance Volunteers at TowsleyCanyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderieand a heart-thumping workout. For moreinformation contact Steve Ioerger at661-291-1565.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report",brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by theMountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.