August 25, 2021
After our brush with the ants yesterday I received a text from my mom that told of an intruder who had gotten into her house. She was in her chair and getting ready to go to bed when she looked down and saw a toad on the floor. My brother happened to be spending the night, so she cried out, “Dana, come here!” My brother thought something was wrong and rushed in to see what he could do to help. When mom told him about the toad, he caught it and put it back outside. Mom mentioned she had seen the toad hopping around on the back patio several days earlier. Apparently, it had snuck it when the door was open. Maybe the toad just wanted to watch TV.
The reason we have quarterly pest control is to keep any unwanted intruder from entering our house. This includes the flies, ants, and spiders that naturally live in our neighborhood. I recall as a as a boy in Kansas seeing a large tarantula on my grandmother’s bed. She hit it with a broom and took it outside. When I looked online, I found the Texas brown tarantula (Aphonopelma hentzi) is the primary species in Kansas. Their coloration ranges from light brown to black, and their bodies are covered with dense hairs that the spiders fling at the eyes of predators when threatened. They are shy, docile creatures, but a tarantula can seem to be aggressive when it feels threatened, as it rears up on its back legs and exposing its fangs ready to attack. Utah State University Cooperative Extension suggests that if a tarantula does enter your home, “Put an open container on top of the spider and slide a piece of paper under the opening.” After trapping the intruder, you can safely release it outside. I wonder why my grandmother did not think of that.
Both stories remind me of another intruder I encountered at Boy Scout Camp. We had set up our four-person tents and were lounging around talking when one of the boys noticed a huge tarantula (memory says three inches, but . . . ) crawling across the ceiling of the tent. While the other boys were freaked out, I decided I would catch it and let it go in the woods. I got my metal cup and scraped the spider into it. After carrying it outside, I flung the spider toward the brush. Apparently, the spider had been holding onto the cup, because rather than going toward the brush it shot up in the air, landing on my right ear. Now I was the one freaking out. Spiders have never bothered me, but after that incident spider webs do. You never know where the spider might be.
Thoughts: Tarantulas live in twelve US states, including New Mexico, California, Arizona, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. Because female tarantulas rarely leave their burrows and males venture out only in search of females, it is rare to encounter one of these spiders in the home. That is why most experts recommend you capture and remove the tarantula rather than killing them. Many people treat spiders much like Indiana Jones, “Why does it have to be spiders!” While we may see insects and spiders as an intruder, we are the intruder on their space. They are just adapting to the new environment that we created. We need to find ways to live in harmony with both wild creatures and people. Too often we just see them as pests. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.