Face-to-deadly Black Widow face

Lenny La Rue, IPA

Sacramento, United States

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This is going to be one of my favourites in the Face-to-Face series because it gets right into the face of something I’m afraid of, see rarely, and was thrilled to see in detail. :-D I’m gonna make the assumption I’m seeing the reflection of two eyes as the widow walked under a previous layer of webbing and almost right into the camera lens. Now that I think about it, using a DSLR probably prolonged the experience as I may have bumped into webbing I couldn’t see by putting a pocket rocket in macro and pushing it into even closer range. My 18-105 Nikkor lens is the one that could get me closest. I didn’t have my tripod out because I wasn’t anywhere I usually carry it and that’s a small disappointment as I could have backed up and stabilized a shot that looked close enough to freakout the average human being. Oh well, I’m learning anyway. :-D

There were at least 4 kills/captures and 2 of them are visible here. Both were very common spiders with long legs & are always present in corners of local buildings. In more than a decade of walking past this corner though, there has never been anything as big and black around. These unfortunate spiders died in the most unusual trap.

Two additional bits of information are either interesting, amusing, or disturbing. First, a regular building maintenance person saw a streak shoot across the parking lot and dive into one of the drainage pipes. By the second encounter he had ID’d the streaker as a baby jackrabbit! LOL! The pipes are completely dry unless rainwater from the roof of the building runs thru them. They are far too small for Jill to enter and that’s a GREAT relief considering the second bit of recent info…

The drainage pipe in the same relative location as the building where I shot the black widow had a noticeable amount of plant litter “floating” in its opening. This wouldn’t have warranted even a passing thought if I hadn’t been trained by Cathy (great friend/guide/semi-pro photographer) to watch for very strong and highly sticky webbing: the trademark of black widows. I touched the obviously unused webbing and confirmed the stickiness. If one of Jill’s kids dives in a hole with a widow, it’s dead.



I once tried to flush a widow out of a steel extension ladder’s hollow rung. Using the full flow of water at the other end (about 2 feet), the web not only didn’t break, it plugged the hole almost completely with leaves. I increased the speed of the water with my thumb and the webbing still held but the rung overflowed on my hand and that scared the crap outta me, thinking the spider could ride that backwash and I’d get bitten yet again.

I wasn’t thinking “Teensy-Weensy Spider” when I backed up and shoved the hose through the ladder rung. It went thru easily enough, all the backed-up water came out easily enough, and I was feeling pretty sure all was clear when the widow came out the far end. She had not only survived under the backed-up water and the blasted water in the hole, she had stayed attached to the remnants of her web that was stretching more than 2 feet beyond the other end of the hole. Miss Sticky’s home must have included the full length of the ladder rung and it STILL didn’t break but Miss Sticky was very, very angry.

The next few minutes were a fight I didn’t think I could have with a freakin insect. I dropped the ladder, abandoned the hose, and tried to smash that rapidly approaching witch with sticks, rocks, and finally my foot before she decided it was better to get away and get me. She also abandoned the ladder and climbed into the weeds I was cutting down. I’m thinkin, ‘this is not good’ and used a fallen branch the diameter of my wrist to keep her in sight while trying to crush her with it. It took waaaaaaay longer than I imagined possible. I got her well over 4 feet from the place she went into knee-high weeds. I was sweating, yelling, and likely making a spectacle of myself to the local mountain people. But I beat that patch of ground down to an elevation lower than the surrounding neighbourhood. Trust me.

Artwork Comments

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