Giant Insects

I hope to have more photos of my friendly neighborhood Orb Weaver in the future. He(or she) has found an excellent spot outside our living room window, keeping our flying insect population to a minimum. A yellowjacket was nicely webbed up on Thursday morning. I haven't seen this year's Mud Dauber since the Orb Weaver set up shop, and while I doubt it could snare a wasp that size, it might be discouraging the thing. Still, there is that telltale hole in my lawn...

I've also started seeing camel crickets in our basement again, though none remotely as large as my friend from two years ago. I'll go down to do laundry and catch a brown speck out of the corner of my eye, and with a leap it disappears. On Thursday night I heard my mom get startled, and found a regular variety black cricket huddling by some magazines. It skittered rather than leapt, and when I finally got it in a bottle I saw that it was missing one of its back legs. I suppose killing it would have been more merciful than putting it outside, where it probably became prey. In the grand scheme of things I guess that's less wasteful than squishing it in a napkin. Maybe that's even an honorable death in the insect kingdom; who knows.

I will say that it was a big cricket, and it's only within the last two or three years that the bugs around here have grown so large, at least as far as I've noticed. As it turns out, our orb weaver isn't alone and if it wasn't for a leaf stuck in the middle of it, a web spanning nearly our entire front lawn would have gone unnoticed. My mom already walked into the thing once but it's since been rebuilt and reinforced. Those things don't mess around, architecturally. There's another spanning an arch leading up to our verandah that I nearly walked into. My dad said he had walked through there earlier and didn't notice it, but the whole “old people shrink” thing must have finally worked in his favor.

One of my friends at work has also noticed an orb weaver on his porch, as well as some other fearsome spiders in his garage and near his garden. Fearing a Brown Recluse had hitched a ride the last time he visited his folks in Pennsylvania and since multiplied, he researched furiously before determining it to be a harmless funnel web spider. He had photographed what he thought was a pair dueling, but later considered that they were mating. In any case, I succeeded in selling him on the value of such species in controlling other insects. As long as they stayed out of the way and weren't toxic to humans, where was the harm?

At the end of the day, he stopped by to tell me about a frantic call from his wife, asking him when he was coming home. It was unusual, and he wondered what was wrong. Apparently their orb weaver had constructed a web across their entire porch, and she'd walked into it. “You're coming home and getting rid of your friend,” she informed him. He was dejected that he had to kill it, although he did consider trying to relocate it elsewhere in the yard. I've yet to learn the outcome of that situation, but I have to wonder if my mercy is a good thing, if these things keep getting bigger. By the time we find ourselves in a Starship Troopers scenario, there isn't going to be a bottle big enough to relocate the things....


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