Golden silk from golden orb spiders
October 5, 2009 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Producing the spider silk—the only example of its kind displayed anywhere in the world—involved the efforts of 70 people who collected spiders daily from webs on telephone wires, using long poles. A unique piece of golden yellow silk brocade cloth, woven from spiderwebs, is on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York. To harvest enough silk to make the cloth, more than a million female golden orb spiders were collected in Madagascar, "milked" for silk, and released back into the wild. The golden spider silk was woven by Malagasy artisans into lamba Akotifahana, a type of brocade that is traditionally reserved for the aristocracy; the entire process took 4 years.

How do you milk a spider? You tug on the dangling end of the silk filament, then put the spider in a harness that winds the rest of the filament onto a spool. Needless to say, Nephila madagascariensis are very large spiders, females reaching 4 to 5 inches when adult.

Spider silk has high tensile strength, making it a potentially useful industrial material, but spiders are difficult to keep, being inclined to eat each other in captivity. The gene for spider silk was cloned into transgenic goats by Nexia Biotechnologies in Montreal (previously 1 and 2). However, Nexia has moved away from traditional yarns and fibers and they are developing nanometer diameter BioSteel fiber for medical and microelectronic applications.

Spider silk - it's not just for World of Warcraft any more!
posted by Quietgal (88 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

 
They're made of spider sugar -- doesn't hurt the spiders!
posted by Afroblanco at 9:02 PM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's really creepy.
posted by wuwei at 9:13 PM on October 5, 2009


I just saw that cloth yesterday. It's really quite beautiful, but I was kind of hoping I'd find "SOME PIG" written in a corner.

Also, "Spider Milker" sounds like just about the worst job ever. Like, a representative from the Spider Milker Union is going to be the main attraction at the career fair of my nightmares.
posted by ilana at 9:20 PM on October 5, 2009 [25 favorites]


This is supremely cool. It's like some textile an ancient monarch might have worn. That people have done it voluntarily reminds me of the volunteer project to reproduce the "Unicorn" tapestries going on now at Stirling Castle in Scotland.

(I love spider silk! About ten years ago, as a little art project, I harvested a LOT of spiderwebs and braided the fibers into a single piece of string. I used it to tie together a bouquet of miniature roses from my garden.)
posted by darkstar at 9:20 PM on October 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Normally when you read the phrase "woven from spider silk" you expect to see the words "Cruel Princess", "Lord Of Nightmare" and "Burst into flame" come up pretty soon.
posted by The Whelk at 9:21 PM on October 5, 2009 [19 favorites]


you expect to see the words "Cruel Princess", "Lord Of Nightmare" and "Burst into flame" come up pretty soon.

Why? Is Ann Coulter in the house?
posted by Avenger at 9:24 PM on October 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


By the way, for those interesting in harvesting spiderwebs for whatever reason, I recommend a wire coat-hanger, bent out into a square shape. You can pick up most of a spiderweb intact with it.
posted by darkstar at 9:27 PM on October 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Impressive!! That's what I call crafting (all you Etsy people are clearly wasting your time).
posted by Go Banana at 9:30 PM on October 5, 2009


I guess most of the labor was hired, not volunteer, though the whole project was not a profit-driven enterprise. Frankly, I'm a bit jealous of these guys. It's an awesome project.

Great link, thanks!
posted by darkstar at 9:38 PM on October 5, 2009


It looks quite a lot like Kevlar.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:41 PM on October 5, 2009


more than a million female golden orb spiders were collected in Madagascar, "milked" for silk, and released back into the wild

Hmmmm.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:49 PM on October 5, 2009


It is a little jarring to see beauty and horror so close together on the same page. I'm referring to the stunning, naturally golden cloth and the hands holding two very very large spiders (are they alive? is he nuts?)
posted by eye of newt at 9:49 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


It does look like Kevlar. I used to build lamps and many of them used Kevlar as a material for the lampshades. It diffuses light wonderfully.
posted by Tube at 9:49 PM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


(all you Etsy people are clearly wasting your time).

Does this undercut my ability to make an Etsy Betsy Spider joke?
posted by hermitosis at 9:53 PM on October 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


I am sorry, but rare costly spider silk or not, that fringe needs to be trimmed up evenly.
It just makes the whole thing look tacky.

(Although it's really lovely and very remarkable, really.)
posted by SLC Mom at 9:59 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


A waste of time. Over here, we splice the spider gene into goats, milk the goats, and extract the silk. Then instead of tapestries, we make bulletproof body armor, three times tougher than Kevlar, so we can defend our smarter way of life.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:10 PM on October 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


eye of newt — don't look at this photo, then.

I'm not very afraid of spiders, but eeeeeeekkkk getitoff getitoff getitoff!!!
posted by Lexica at 10:13 PM on October 5, 2009


I hate spiders. I hate spiders so damn bad. So, I can't decide if this is awesome because somebody's enslaved the little bitches and made them work for us or if it's vile and should be sewn with salt because it was created on the devil's runway.
posted by katillathehun at 10:14 PM on October 5, 2009 [20 favorites]


And I'm going to pretend "sewn with salt" was a bad pun.
posted by katillathehun at 10:14 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has anyone ever read Green Mansions? A character in that novel wears a dress made of spider silk.
posted by Araucaria at 11:14 PM on October 5, 2009


“We had to find people who were willing to work with spiders,” Godley said, “because they bite.”

...and because they are SPIDERS THE SIZE OF YOUR FUCKING HAND.


The detail of the tapestry is really amazingly beautiful. The patience it took to make something like that was truly tremendous, as was the ability to overcome the fact that it was made from the exquisite golden silk of SPIDERS THE SIZE OF YOUR FUCKING HAND. BIG SPIDERS. BIIIIIGGG SPIDERS.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:18 PM on October 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


Who first milked a spider? It must have taken a bunch of tries to get the technique right. I admire that. I would have given up after one or two spider milkings.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:30 PM on October 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


*rings dhruva on the Batphone*
posted by Wolof at 11:58 PM on October 5, 2009


fucking awesome.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:12 AM on October 6, 2009


I'm with louche mustachio and kattilathehun on this one. On the one hand so awesome, on the other hand HORRIFYING! Props for the links. I do wonder what the tensile strength of that fabric is? But those are some hugely scary spiders. Let's just hope they never seek revenge and try to get the tapestry back, ok? *SHUDDERS and HIDES*
posted by luminous phenomena at 12:30 AM on October 6, 2009


So after they were released back into the wild, did they all starve because they had no silk left with which to weave their webs, or could they replenish it in time?
posted by spasm at 12:34 AM on October 6, 2009


Who first milked a spider?

A tiny little man with a tiny little stool and a tiny little bucket, who tragically had his head ripped off and his innards sucked out immediately thereafter.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:58 AM on October 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


Welp, I'M not sleeping tonight, I don't know about anyone else.
posted by metacollin at 1:02 AM on October 6, 2009


This is why I hate billionaires. They have no imagination. If I had a couple billion dollars I would hire a crack team of spider milkers to make me a couple perfectly tailored spider silk outfits, and perhaps a set or two of spider silk sheets.

Then I would have the million spiders released in the home of my arch enemy.
posted by Justinian at 1:22 AM on October 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


The representative for Silkworms Local #138 was quoted as saying, "Well, we did think we should have had an opportunity to bid on the contract, but really, what were we going to do? Face down a bunch of giant spiders? We're WORMS, man. WORMS."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:29 AM on October 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


So after they were released back into the wild, did they all starve because they had no silk left with which to weave their webs, or could they replenish it in time?

From the Wired article:

Once the spiders had been milked, they were released into back into the wild, where Godley said it takes them about a week to regenerate their silk. “We can go back and re-silk the same spiders,” he said. “It’s like the gift that never stops giving.”

So presumably most of the spiders survive. And given that the males don't produce silk, I'd guess that the females can switch to hunting rather than trapping prey.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:42 AM on October 6, 2009


Beautiful link. I really like spiders and the cloth is beautiful, and now that I've read some of the comments on the thread I imagine the cloth sticking to me and packaging me up for the next Federal Express pickup. Hmm.
posted by effluvia at 1:52 AM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm with louche mustache on this one. I was reading the article (because I'm just not bright enough to turn away from things I clearly shouldn't read), and came across that nonchalant phrase

“We had to find people who were willing to work with spiders,” Godley said, “because they bite.”


Some part of my mind just won't stop screaming. Yes, yes, they were nice and kind to the spiders. I just can't imagine that gathering spiders and "milking" them is any better an idea than all the times Weyland-Yutani thought, "Hey, keeping an Alien queen prisoner and raising her brood as research subjects can't possibly go wrong this time, can it?"
posted by Ghidorah at 1:57 AM on October 6, 2009


Thanks, le morte de bea arthur; I missed that.
posted by spasm at 2:10 AM on October 6, 2009


Part of me is thinking that this is an amazing idea, provided that the spiders were properly cared for.

Another part of me has this Arachnophobia-esque thing going on, where the spiders suddenly realise that yes, they can produce enough silk to wrap an entire human, and then start hunting us instead of flies.
posted by Solomon at 3:39 AM on October 6, 2009


Golden silk orb-weaver spiders...scary sons of bitches. Known for EATING BIRDS:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1079895/The-amazing-pictures-giant-spider-eating-bird.html

(you might not want to click on that)

I always get freaked out when I see a lower order animal eat a higher order animal. It's not supposed to happen that way, right?
posted by Edgewise at 3:51 AM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's early, sorry for the stupid link....

Here it is:

you might not want to click on this
posted by Edgewise at 3:52 AM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why am I suddenly itching all over?
posted by chillmost at 4:20 AM on October 6, 2009


Because they're right behind you!
posted by lysdexic at 4:28 AM on October 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is really cool stuff, but oh, god, the size of those things.
posted by lysdexic at 4:29 AM on October 6, 2009


I want to see the care instructions: tumble-dry cool, check lint filter for still-living prey.
posted by hawthorne at 5:04 AM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


I once read that newborn infants are terrified of spiders. This is before they've had any sort of cultural indoctrination or learned the "ick! spider!" behavior from watching their parents or peers.

I always found that fascinating: that somewhere deep, deep down in the oldest (evolution-wise) part of the brain--the lizard part, where love and laughter and fear live--there's some special genetic code that tells us spiders == bad.

I wonder what kind of insane size-of-your-head, carrying-off-your-babies kind of spiders our ancestors had to deal with for that fear to be hard-wired into us.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:20 AM on October 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


In 2007 Cheryl Hayashi received a "Genius" grant from the Mac Arthur Foundation for her work with synthesizing spider silk. The potential for everything from armor to medical uses are amazing.

The secret of spider silk's combined strength and flexibility, according to scientists, has to do with the arrangement of the nano-crystalline reinforcement of the silk as it is being produced—in other words, the way these tiny crystals are oriented towards (and adhere to) the stretchy protein.

Emulating this process in a synthetic polymer, the MIT team focused on reinforcing solutions of commercial rubbery substance known as polyurethane elastomer with nano-sized clay platelets instead of simply heating the mixing the molten plastics with reinforcing agents.

According to McKinley, the process yields a nanocomposite that is randomly reinforced with these nano clay discs, making it very strong, yet also stretchy.



Spiders are very cool.
posted by readery at 5:41 AM on October 6, 2009


Did I miss something? People are afraid of animals that are "the size of a small hand" because "they bite"? Apparently their venom is pretty darn weak, so it's not some sort of death-defying brown recluse milking.

So, uh, what about cows and goats? People milk those, and they're much bigger. They bite, and you can't just kill them with a swat.

If anything, larger arachnids almost seem more sympathetic to me, because they leave that mental space of "tiny annoying bugs" and occupy the "cute small animals" niche. Fuzzy tarantulas are cute like mice in a way ticks and fleas never will be. Anything that preys on gnats and mosquitos is OK by me.
posted by explosion at 5:50 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


OK, my hand is definitely itching right now. It wasn't before I read this.
posted by limeonaire at 6:06 AM on October 6, 2009


Did I miss something?

Yes, apparently you missed out on the primordial human fear of spiders. I envy your mighty logic. Seriously...I do, because I hate the fuckers.
posted by Edgewise at 6:13 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Spiderians, though weak and woman-like on the battlefield, are masters of the textile arts. Taste like king crab by the way. Crazy bugs actually wove this tapestry of my heroic conquest while I was still killing them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:39 AM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Did I miss something?

Nah, yer fine.


(Pssst! Replicants don't have the same primordial fear responses! You have to fake them or they'll find you!)
posted by The Whelk at 6:43 AM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I study spiders, and have a small project with a species of the genus Nephila, and I can only marvel at the immense work that has gone into this. Even letting aside the weaving part, the collecting of spiders, the manpower, the instense dedication to put in all that work to produce something undeniably beautiful, it's simply amazing. I do not think that there will be another such piece made ever.

Did I miss something?
MeFi is generally quite arachnophobic.
posted by dhruva at 6:45 AM on October 6, 2009


So, uh, what about cows and goats? People milk those, and they're much bigger. They bite, and you can't just kill them with a swat.

Cows and goats don't leap out at you from hidden places or sneak around your house and reveal themselves when you least expect or want to see them.

Besides, calves and kids are much more fun than swarms of miniature freakdoms emerging from an egg sac.
posted by Atreides at 6:48 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


While beautiful, I still didn't feel bad killing that big, creepy spider I found in my laundry basket. Nope. Not one bit.
posted by stormpooper at 6:53 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, uh, what about cows and goats? People milk those, and they're much bigger. They bite, and you can't just kill them with a swat.

I think it is because spiders are so foreign looking. Cows and goats have two eyes, 4 legs, and are warm and fuzzy. Spiders... not so much. Also certain cows can't bite you and cause your to skin start to rot off.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:58 AM on October 6, 2009


Or bite through your shoe to inject their deadly poison.
posted by electroboy at 7:00 AM on October 6, 2009


As a child I was terrified by spiders in a very primordial way and screamed until they were removed from my bedroom. But at some point in my life I realized I hate mosquitoes and flies much, much more and "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." So I have overcome my revulsions and now I find them beautiful.

This summer when the mosquitoes were bad and we had a pantry moth invasion, I left all the spider webs inside the house alone and marveled at their body count. One industrious gal built her web in just the right place and had twenty pantry moths caught in her web. One web in the living room-- cunningly placed in the corner of the living room window-- had at least thirty fly bodies-- so much more pleasing and ecologically sound than fly paper.

Out in the garden, we have a large number of writing spiders (also called black and yellow, and corn spiders. One smart lady spider built her web next to the pond. She grew to an enormous size -- easily as big as the spiders in the posted link-- by feasting on the mosquitoes drawn to the water. One day I swear it looked like she had a small goldfish wrapped up in her web. Could she have gone fishing?

We were very lucky to have one of the writing spiders set up shop just outside the kitchen window and it has been wonderfully fascinating to watch her. That jagged bit of dense silk that gives them the name of writing spider seems to be used for wrapping up the latest victims. She goes out to the edge of the web to harvest her latest catch, drags it to the middle, and wraps, wraps, wraps furiously like a knitter winding up a ball of yarn. Later, when she has some free time, the "writing" bit of her web is replaced. One night we had a horrific wind that blew the web mightily. She was hanging on for dear life like a sailor clinging to a life boat in rocky seas. Large sycamore leaves smashed into the web and stuck, but by morning all was repaired and the leaves disposed of. Then sadly she was gone for 3 days and I thought I had lost her forever. Happily she showed up yesterday and is back in business. Perhaps she was looking for a mate?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:12 AM on October 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Secret Life of Gravy, I think you're referring to what we call "Garden Spiders." Here's a good picture.

For three years in a row we had garden spiders weave their huge webs all over our yard. The first year one set up his web (actually was a female, but we called him him) right in one of our living room windows. I would sit and watch him. When it started to rain he ran around eating his web except for a few main lines that he would hang onto for the storm, after which I would watch him reweave his web. So cool. One day he caught a cicada in his web and the spider and the cicada struggled for quite a while before the spider managed to inject the cicada with poison and he quieted down. Then he wrapped him up. Mind you, the cicada was twice the size of the spider's body. The spider lost a leg in that battle, and after that we called him Seven. He ate on that Cicada for weeks, growing fat as the cicada's body slowly disappeared. We watched Seven for three months, until he (she) finally left an egg sac in the upper corner of the window and died.

The next year one of (I assume) Seven's children set up a web in the same window. We had a lot of them that year, including one web on the porch right next to our front door. One of my friends, who lived in Washington DC, visited and saw the web and the four-inch spider on it and said, "Oh, you're all decorated for Halloween." When I corrected her and told her it was real, she almost fainted.

Sadly, last year and this year we've had no garden spiders. It was one of the best things about summer here and I don't know why they've gone away.

We also had a little house spider who lived in our big garden tub that we never use. He collected all the gnats in the house in that tub, which was quite a service, in my opinion. I have a deal with spiders. As long as they stay out of my shower or my bed or within about a foot of me, we're cool. But break the rules and go splat.
posted by threeturtles at 7:39 AM on October 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


This summer when the mosquitoes were bad and we had a pantry moth invasion, I left all the spider webs inside the house alone and marveled at their body count.

Holy crap! If I'd lived with you as a child, I would have had to turn myself over to Social Services as a child in need of care. Now, if you'll please excuse me, everyone, I've got to go revise my list of "Questions to Ask a Potential Spouse" and address my sudden compulsion to do copious amounts of housecleaning.
posted by cowpattybingo at 7:47 AM on October 6, 2009


What's the point if I can't touch it?
posted by cmoj at 8:06 AM on October 6, 2009


I can't access your picture, threeturtles, but here is the wiki page for Agriope aurentia.

What can I say, cowpattybingo except that pantry moth traps are wasteful and expensive. So rather than add to the landfill, I opt for the free/organic way of pest control.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:08 AM on October 6, 2009


This would be the perfect tablecloth for enjoying a panda steak while staring at your Gardner Vemeer.
posted by bendybendy at 8:18 AM on October 6, 2009


Ok, are there any links which show the Beautiful Silk and that don't have pictures of Horrible Eight Legged Death Bringers?
I'm scared to click
posted by pointystick at 8:40 AM on October 6, 2009


Ok, are there any links which show the Beautiful Silk and that don't have pictures of Horrible Eight Legged Death Bringers?


Nicholas Godley and Simon Peers at the American Museum of Natural History with the hand-woven cloth.


Winding the filaments into thread.

A detail of the textile, with its traditional Malagasy motifs.

Select print view on page one of the accompanying article and you won't see the Eight Legged Death Bringer photo.
posted by rory at 8:59 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whoops, wrong link on one of those. Winding the filaments into thread.
posted by rory at 9:01 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cheryl Hayashi's work is nifty, I guess, but I'd save the genius award for after she invents a wrist-mounted squirt gun that can spray the the stuff 100 yards and hit a car moving away at 60 mph. In her bedroom. Using nothing but a microscope and a rack of test tubes.
posted by straight at 9:11 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


eye of newt : the hands holding two very very large spiders (are they alive? is he nuts?)

From the National Zoo link: Overall, golden orb spiders are rather docile, seldom exhibiting aggressive behavior. They pose no threat to humans, and their venom is potent enough only to other insects.

Just think of them as sweet, harmless little eight legged puppies.

Totally unlike the angry venomous ones that will be crawling around in your bed right before you go to sleep tonight...

Mwahaha!

posted by quin at 9:11 AM on October 6, 2009


No wonder Madagascar is always so quick to close their ports.... they have enough problems.
posted by The otter lady at 9:41 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, uh, what about cows and goats? People milk those, and they're much bigger. They bite, and you can't just kill them with a swat.

I might feel differently if my home was subject to a seasonal invasion by cows, instead of wolf spiders. But it wasn't a cow hiding under a plate in the dish rack, popping out HELLO first thing this morning when I was fixing breakfast.

It wasn't a cow that crept over my shoulder last night as I sat on the couch reading a book, making itself known first by a little flutter in my peripheral vision HELLO.

I don't mind the wolf spiders themselves as much as I mind their jack-in-the-box, hide-somewhere-funny, wait-for-her-to-find-us, HELLO ways. If cows were four inches tall and had been known to hide under my keyboard only to saunter out while I was absorbed in the middle of writing something, then yes, I might be afraid of cows.
posted by ErikaB at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2009 [16 favorites]


I don't share this fear of spiders everybody seems to have so I'll just drop this little gem. Sleep tight!
posted by scalefree at 10:05 AM on October 6, 2009


It wasn't a cow that crept over my shoulder last night as I sat on the couch reading a book

But you've got to admit it, if a 2500 pound animal got past your front door, and silently crept through your house and managed to get behind you while you were reading, only to be discovered when you glanced over and discovered her watching you; slowly chewing her cud...

Well, that would be way more terrifying to me that finding a spider. And I really like cows.
posted by quin at 10:10 AM on October 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


We're WORMS, man. WORMS.

Boy, silkworms is sure stupid. Don't even know they's caterpillars.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:35 AM on October 6, 2009


So, is it on display at the museum? I couldn't find it there. I would definitely go to New York just to see it.
posted by annsunny at 10:37 AM on October 6, 2009


Cows and goats don't leap out at you from hidden places or sneak around your house and reveal themselves when you least expect or want to see them.

Coincidentally, I'm genetically engineering cows and goats that do just that! I'm crossbreeding them with spiders and plan on marketing the resulting high-tensile-strength artisanal cheeses.
posted by darkstar at 11:08 AM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I hate and loathe spiders. But I also garden, so spiders and I, we've reached a sort of detente. I have declared the inhabited parts of the house off-limits, and under martial law. The ROE inside the house provide for immediate lethal attack with no warning. But spiders are welcome anywhere outdoors, in the greenhouse, and in the basement, provided they eat whatever other bugs they find in those places.

It's not entirely clear whether they accept this agreement, but none of them have killed me yet, so I'm taking that with a sense of cautious optimism for future peaceful coexistence.
posted by rusty at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Frodo Baggins got a complete suit made out of this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:19 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


what about cows and goats?

Neither are venomous. All spiders are venomous.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:22 AM on October 6, 2009


How horrifyingly beautiful.
I also enjoy the idea of enslaved spiders.
posted by smartypantz at 11:33 AM on October 6, 2009


"and released back into the wild. "

I sincerely hope that release was staggered; I don't want to think about a million pissed-off spiders streaming out of one place.
posted by mgrichmond at 1:15 PM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ok, are there any links which show the Beautiful Silk and that don't have pictures of Horrible Eight Legged Death Bringers?

My favorite is this one.
posted by Justinian at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


And then there's this.
posted by electroboy at 2:23 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


But you could always control the spider population with one of these.
posted by electroboy at 2:30 PM on October 6, 2009


Also, cows and sheep don't leave long, thin, nigh invisible strands of stickiness stretched across walkways at face height. Strands that you never really feel you've gotten off of your face.

Here in Chiba, there are what I assume to be Golden Orb spiders everywhere. I say assume because I can't actually bring myself to sift through photos of spiders without getting the yips. They create webs meters across, and have removed my joy of walking through the woods, since in any woods near hear, they stretch between almost every tree. My ROE is a bit different. While some people seem to not mind the giant webs in their yards, or attached to their houses, I most certainly do. Giant web spinners, get of mah properta!
posted by Ghidorah at 5:17 PM on October 6, 2009


"It wasn't a cow that crept over my shoulder last night as I sat on the couch reading a book, making itself known first by a little flutter in my peripheral vision HELLO. "

You're lucky. The wolf spiders around here shoot around like a ferret on roller skates dosed with caffeine. I've never seen one move at less than all out.
posted by Mitheral at 5:24 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


After thinking about it all day (I really have been), I believe the salient difference (phobia-wise) between cows and spiders is that cows don't scuttle.

If cows scuttled - sideways, crazy-ways, right towards you, under the couch, halfway across the floor and stop and then turn and scuttle right into your empty shoe - this is me making scuttling motions with my fingers, alternating with SURPRISE Jazz Hands - then damned straight I'd be scared of cows.

Also, cows only have two eyes, as is right and proper.

You show me an eight-eyed scuttling cow, and I will show you an Erika who needs a change of underwear and a shot of Haldol STAT.
posted by ErikaB at 5:26 PM on October 6, 2009 [54 favorites]


I've heard that the Huntsman spider, aka The Clock Spider, kills as many people in Australia as its more venomous cousins. The Huntsman apparently likes warm, indoors spaces like houses and cars. So every so often someone is driving to work and OHMIGOD WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT *crash*.
posted by electroboy at 6:12 PM on October 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I feel like I need to clarify something.

In the comments above, it may seem like I'm a hater of spiders. I was addressing the more general human arachnophobia, rather than my own.

See, I'm not afraid of spiders. I quite like them, really. I enjoy having them around the house, as long as they stay out of my pants drawer. I've spent hours watching them doing their spider thing. And these are some cool-looking spiders that I wouldn't mind observing.

Observing being the operative word. Watching.

I just don't have the zen calm that I have when, say, handling snakes, which is essential in safely holding any animal that might bite. I have seen people that can just gently lift and cradle spiders in their hands, and let them crawl about freely. The key is to be slow, graceful and gentle, and not make any sudden or fearful movements, regardless of what the spider decides to do. I know from experience that if a spider decides to run or jump, I tend to flinch and flail. This not only increases my chances of being bitten, but it also endangers the safety of the spider, and I don't want that.

I understand, intellectually, that spiders in general aren't very aggressive defensively - they only bite when they are injured or feel vulnerable or threatened. It's just convincing my body to understand what my mind does that's the problem.

And here, not only are you trying to get people to handle big-ass spiders, you are asking them to harness them and pull all the filament out of their spider butts, which I can't help but equate with giving the spider an atomic wedgie. And I know that I would most certainly bite anyone who tried to give me a wedgie, so I wouldn't blame a spider for doing the same.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:31 PM on October 6, 2009


I was not freaked out until I saw Justinian's link. ARGHARGHARGH STUFF OF NIGHTMARES. DO NOT WANT. ERASE. UNICORNS.
posted by olya at 7:18 PM on October 6, 2009


...this is me making scuttling motions with my fingers, alternating with SURPRISE Jazz Hands...

There are so many things about this sentence that I love.

posted by quin at 7:23 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know, quin! I'm still rofling about that particular turn of phrase.
posted by darkstar at 7:42 PM on October 6, 2009


After thinking about it all day (I really have been), I believe the salient difference (phobia-wise) between cows and spiders is that cows don't scuttle.

Maybe not but as any fan of the Far Side knows, they are always plotting our demise.
posted by scalefree at 9:10 PM on October 6, 2009


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