A friend sent me this picture the other day. The subject, one of its fangs clearly visible between two front legs, fell on her back whilst she was sunbathing. She claims the only reason it didn’t take a chunk out of her is that she was smothered in tanning oil rather than sun cream so it couldn’t get a grip. The image of a spider sliding all over her skin like a manic ice skater as she fought to get off the ‘rickety camp bed’ she uses as sun lounger made me laugh more than it should. Claire is English, currently living in Melbourne, and events like this make her wish she wasn’t.
Neil hates spiders, one reason we will never live in Oz. Snakes come a close second. The first time we saw a snake, somewhere in the Brisbane area, we were walking along a track when I noticed the shadow cast by the fence seemed to be moving. I glanced sideways to see a thin snake entangled in the mesh. Neil was behind me and I paused and pointed. He leapt three feet in the air (the only time I’ve seen him jump higher was when we rounded a corner on a walk and came upon the biggest bull either of us had ever seen), shrieked like a banshee and dragged me away from the fence because: ‘It might strike!’ I pointed out, to no avail, that it was wound around the wire, thus probably unable to strike and, if it should, would chop itself into numerable pieces in doing so.
New Zealand physically separated from Australia some seventy million years ago. We lucked out, getting no snakes or crocodiles and only one poisonous spider. Unless you have underlying health issues its bite isn’t fatal. I was bitten by one a few years ago – my hand swelled so much I could hardly move my fingers, but I’m still here to tell the tale.
This weta is the scariest wee beastie we see on these islands. They might look dangerous and, granted, one does give you a bit of a fright when it lands on your hand as you open the curtains, but they are harmless. Full disclosure, I let out quite a loud shriek and batted the poor thing across the room before I realised what it was. Scared it more than me, which is probably why it gave me a nip from those rear pincers, the worst they can do. Here he (and, yes, I know it’s a male) rears on his hind legs to make himself look larger, his defence mechanism, and even then he’s only 8cm tall (I measured him).
In Melbourne, Claire’s partner’s reaction to the spider was similar to Neil’s snake reaction, and he refused to accompany her downstairs as door opener to allow her to deposit it outside (a power failure meant the lift wasn’t working). The lesson both of us learned is how nice it is to be with an alpha male. Luckily for them they have other good qualities that redeem them.