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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Mummy Long-legs and The Huntswoman





At the end of the bath there is a shelf. And on this shelf are pots of ivy, a perfect habitat, I have now discovered, for spiders.

There has been one daddy long-legs (probably Pholcus phalangioides, family Pholcidae) or another in residence behind the pots for years. There was a cupboard spider (Steatoda grossa, family Theridiidae) under the right hand pot for over a year. She'd come out each night and disappear each day.

A few months ago, there was a huntsman (I suspect she was Isopedella victorialis, certainly family Sparassidae) wandering around. I thought he (the wanderers are almost always males) looked a bit fat and then got fatter. I realised that it was a female ready to lay, and took the screen from the bathroom window so she could get outside. She was no longer slim enough to slip through the gap through which she had almost certainly entered.

The Huntswoman disappeared. I assume she had left, but then a fortnight ago, I noticed her peeping out from the gap between the pot and the wall. I shone a torch into the gap only to see The Huntswoman releasing a mass of squirming babies from her egg sac. 


Within a few hours the bathroom was flooded with tiny little huntsmans racing around like little kids do and then suddenly stopping in exactly the same leg position as grown up huntsmen. They were drop-dead cute! I counted 80 knowing I hadn't included them all. Many swarmed over the edge of the shower.


And so the last week or so has meant being careful when entering the bathroom, dodging tiny spiders dropping on invisible threads then climbing up again. I took the screen from the window hoping The Huntswoman and young would find their way out. 

The daddy long-legs had been resident behind the ivy pots for over a year, having had two lots of babies, so I call her Mummy Long-legs-12 (joining a long list of breeding females). She had many male visitors. I was very fond of her and worried because she was suffering from a lack of insects this year. She had become very thin.

Suddenly she had a smorgasbord of baby huntsmen exiting their nest via the back door. I counted six bundled up in her web as she became fatter and fatter.



But then a few days ago, Mummy Long-legs was just a shell. The Huntswoman had made a meal of her.

The Huntswoman started to look frail as well. I decided to remove the pots and collect her in a glass and put her outside. I then cleaned away all the detritus which had resulted from Mummy Long-legs' long stay.

Only one baby huntsman has wandered into the house and eventually she was low enough for me to reach and take outside. The others have either found their own way to the window or come within my reach. Mostly they hang out on the ceiling. There are only seven left.

I wrote in Spiders: learning to love them that it is a spider-eat-spider world out there. It has upset me to see that it is a spider-eat-spider world in my bathroom as well. Reality isn't perfect!

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