Travels of a Spider

Cancelled. My train, that is. Approximately two minutes before it is due. Not uncommon for this particular rail franchise and commuters mutter on the platform, wonder why they aren’t working from home, and replay time-worn mental maps of the network to plot alternative routes. Well, except for this would-be passenger.

False widow 10 Sept 21

A male false widow spider Steatoda nobilis, perhaps fallen off an earlier train, now on the platform where the service to Gatwick was supposed to arrive. I don’t think anyone’s noticed except me – which is just as well considering this species’ garish presentation in the press. All those headlines caused by this? Guilt by mistaken association; false widow evokes black widow. False widows can bite, but serious reactions are rare and they’re not really out to get us.

They came with bananas from the Canary Islands in the 1870s. Hitching a ride in food is common – I’ve found Caribbean woodlice in Tesco banana bags, and sometimes the genuinely dangerous Brazilian wandering spider also makes the journey. Coronavirus has shown how quickly humanity can transport viruses around the globe, but we are a passenger service for many, many other things, not always to our benefit or theirs.

False widows are really an urban species. Out in the wild, spiders have a different drama: dew and light.

Dawn spider Aug 21

And watch as the madness of summer is smoothed out by the first autumnal mists.

Foggy dawn Aug 21

18 thoughts on “Travels of a Spider

    1. I won’t describe my experiences of knocking into man-sized webs in Mexico then! Spiders are interesting but many people do find them uncomfortable at close range. Still, the world is a better place due to their fly control.

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    1. The UK has been so lax on biosecurity over the years, causing ourselves and our wildlife a world of problems. Some have had a very odd global distribution, i.e. Phytophthora austrocedri, which attacks juniper trees, is also found in southern Argentina and has randomly appeared in Germany and Iran. Its actual origin is anyone’s guess.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. One of our most interesting spiders moved here by itself, through ‘ballooning’ across the English Channel. That’s the wasp spider, but I don’t think the false widow would have got here without bananas. We really need to get much better at checking fruit imports.

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      1. I read that less than 1% of the import ships are checked by agricultural inspectors. There are just too many ships. The latest scourge is a 1″ leaf hopper from Asia that probably came in on a pallet as an egg mass and now threatens our fruit trees and hardwoods, with no natural predators here to keep them in check. It is always something!

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    1. We have scorpions in Kent! Although they have been here for centuries, apparently imported with Italian goods.

      Noble false widows are quite spectacular but they tend to keep their webs for the most part, and I’m sure many people who have them as house guests never realise.

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