27 Apr 2011

Australian Spider Story

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Robert Pickles, who is moving back to Britain, in the Telegraph, shares an Australian spider story.

One evening last year I thought I’d play a little trick on my better half, with a plastic replica of a Huntsman spider. It was about the size of a child’s hand, complete with fangs, hair and big scary eyes. While she was watching telly, I sneaked into the bedroom, placed it on her pillow and pulled the covers over the top. I ran a bath and was happily soaking away the day’s toils when I heard a high-pitched scream. A few seconds later, the bathroom door flew open.

“Robert, you’ve got to come and see this spider.”

“Spider, what spider?”

“It’s huge, you have to come and see.”

I feigned my interest. “Yeah I’ll be out in a bit.”

“No, you have to come now. It’s on the ceiling and it’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”

“On the ceiling?” I grabbed my towel.

I had seen some big ones in the past, but this was the mother of them all. It was as big as an outspread hand. I stood mesmerised, in awe of the hairy beast. It looked quite capable of inflicting a good deal of pain before deftly chewing on fingers and limbs. Sometimes I would hear them in the shed, scuttling through the steel infrastructure like mice, which was a good indication of their weight and size. Other times they would hide behind the sun visor in the car and give me an unsuspecting fright. They have been known to drop onto driver’s laps and cause fatal accidents. By the look of this one, it had eaten quite a few mice itself. Its hairy body was a similar shape, size and colour. More worrying was the fact that, a) there had never been a Huntsman in the bedroom before, b) Ali had not yet seen the plastic one on her pillow, and c) maybe the real one had.

With smaller ones, I would catch and release them by plopping a glass or bowl over the top before sliding a piece of card underneath and throwing them out into the garden. This one needed a 12-bore to kill it and a Bobcat to take it away.

Ali explained that she had been lying on the bed reading a book. Harley was dozing between her legs. She noticed him looking upward with big white nervous eyes. When she looked up, she got the fright of her life. I’m just glad she noticed it before lights out.

When I showed her the plastic version on her pillow, she hit me. I had to agree that it wasn’t one of my better pranks, but it still perplexes me that as we had never seen a Huntsman in the bedroom before; had the real Huntsman seen the plastic spider and thought that he or she was in for a bit of hanky-panky? Ali thought I was talking nonsense, but I still think it was spooky and I’m convinced something weird happened that night.

Huntsmen spiders are representatives of the family Sparassoidea which has numerous individual species. They are very fast and do bite, but (unlike certain other Australian spiders) their bites are not lethal.

A lady finds one in her shower

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