The Southern Home Bestuary: Living with our critter friends and enimies.

Spiders, Friends and Allies – Mostly
July 8, 2010, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Spiders                                 Transplant when must                                   Largely ignore 

Common Garden Spider


  Spiders have an adverse psychological impact on many people. With the exception of two species in the Southeastern U.S., they represent no real danger; although all spiders kill with venom which can sometimes cause septic wounds in people and occasionally be deadly. One thing that spiders know very well is their typical prey, whether they catch it in webs or stalk it like wolf spiders. Humans are too big for spiders to consume and , unless they feel a need to defend themselves, they will save their venom for something they can eat.  More people are likely injured attempting to escape from harmless spiders than are bitten by them. 

  A systematic count of species in and around Whitehall  would likely turn up more than 20 varieties. The largest is the common garden spider shown in the photo. This is an exterior web-spinning spider. Once it finds a spot where it can catch insects it will tend to stay in that area all Summer. The individual shown is about 2-inches long. They will increase body size during the summer, but not grow significantly in over-all length.  The largest North American spiders are the tarantulas which are native to the Desert Southwest and are seen in Georgia only in pet stores. 

  Even the largest spiders will only bite man when provoked. I do have to be careful of black widow spiders when working near wood piles, inside sheds where there may be piles of old boxes, or even under the house. If I disturb their homes, spiders will sometimes bite. I can’t say that they make a direct link between me and their environment  being moved around; but a bite can result.  These bites can make an adult  ill, and a few people who are susceptible may even die from a black widow’s bite, although this is an unusual event. I have never been bitten. 

  Many insects bite, and spiders often get the blame for unexplained bites caused by bed bugs or other pests. When webs in the corners of the ceiling get too big, I sweep them down. Mostly  I let spiders “do their thing” and hunt some of the household insects. I will occasionally rescue a spider who gets trapped in a tub or sink. The way to do this is to fold up a cone of paper,  let it scoot inside, close the cone and release it outside.  They are too fragile to attempt to pick up by the legs. 

  After nightfall on a Summer evening, take a flashlight and walk down a section of  mowed trail through a pasture or woods. sparkling back at you will be hundreds of dots of light glowing back at you.  In my yard these will often be sapphire blue providing an unusual contrast with the flashing yellow-white fire flies as Nature provides its own version of fireworks.

Mid-Summer Mice with Beetle Co-Stars
July 8, 2010, 11:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Common house mouse apparently provides food for household beetles.

 Mice                                                       Remove                                                              Trap

 Populations of mice can grow to considerable numbers in old houses. I had been hearing mice in the false ceiling of my bedroom and started setting out traps. A dozen mice and two months later, I am still catching them. When I seem to catch them out of an area I move the traps and try there. I recently had Whitehall re-roofed, and I suspect the pounding and traffic displaced mice from the attic to the lower floors.

  As I reduce the population of mice, I find that I also reduce the numbers of small black beetles that I find on my bed and on  other surfaces in the house. Apparently there is a “cycle of life” going on here with the mice commonly feeding on other insects, and maybe the beetles too, and the beetles feeding on the mice’s droppings.

  A partial solution to solving a beetle infestation in your house is to aggressively trap mice and other rodents. This method of population control needs to be continued for a period of months to have a notable impact. My dogs help reduce the rodent population near the house by catching occasional squirrels and wood rats. They enjoy the work, but dig up the yard in the process as they also go after moles and chipmunks. The last two cause me no particular problems in the house; but any small rodent is considered “fair game” for hound dogs.   

 Employing the services of a good mouse-catching cat would also be an option; although at the expense of the local bird populations as collateral damage.

  It appears that very few things  are either all good or all bad. Adverse consequences will oftentimes arise from well-intended acts. The alternatives are to do nothing, or take measured risks with the expectation that the beneficial impact will be better than doing nothing.  All life is a measure of risk taking.