A spidery surprise for Halloween

woodlouse spiderCarving the pumpkins for “All Hallows’ Eve” has been a ritual in our household since before I can remember. As I went to collect two impressive specimens from the shed this evening, I paused to check on the rabbits in their hutch at the end of the garden.

What a Halloween shocker I got as I lifted the roof hatch!

There in the corner of the hutch with it’s pale, oblong, hairless shiny body and russet red head and legs was Dysdera crocata (the woodlouse spider). His large and very visible fangs, which project directly forward from his head, were fittingly scary for Halloween.

The rabbits didn’t seem particularly bothered by their visitor, searching the hutch for elusive woodlice for dinner. I was however a little more wary, as these spiders have been known to bite on rare occasions, when they feel threatened. However, the pain of such a bite has been likened to that of a bee or nettle sting.

It seems I had disturbed this nocturnal hunter in his pursuit of dinner, so I carefully ushered him out of the hutch and watched as he scuttled away in the direction of the woodpile, next to the shed. If I looked close enough in the morning I’m sure I would be able to find his silken, cocoon retreat under the logs somewhere.

Halloween Spider WebAs a source of fear (arachnophobia is quite a common phobia) spiders do make for a rather creepy, crawly Halloween creature I had to admit, as I finally brought the pumpkins into the kitchen. They join the ranks of bats and black cats in folklore as being evil “companions” (also known as familiars or protectors) of witches during medieval times. One superstition says that if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is consumed by the flame, witches are nearby. Also if you spot a spider on Halloween, it means that the spirit of a deceased loved one is watching over you (a much nicer idea).

Spiders and their webs are often found in dark places such as creepy basements, crypts, etc…so there is a link between spiders and fear. The spider web to many pagans represented the wheel of life and time, and the turning of the seasons. In addition their eight legs match the eight major pagan festivals – a possible ancient link between spiders and Halloween.

But at the end of the day many people find spiders scary and that’s what counts on Halloween!

 

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