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Thursday, September 9, 2010


Ok, so there are some cool things about Minnesota, but what I find truly relaxing about the land of ten thousand lakes is the LACK of certain things. We're talking no scorpions, no tarantulas, no lizards, no alligators, no malaria-carrying mosquitoes, no hissing scorpions, no cobras, no pythons, no jellyfish or portuguese man-o-war. There are two types of venomous snakes which are isolated to the southeastern counties, and basically one, possibly two, potentially lethal spiders. The Northern Widow is a relative of the black widow, but I've never come across one. I've been told they like to hang out on the underside of the toilet seat in outhouses - which is why I never actually park my butt on the potty when I'm at my dad's cabin. Reports of the brown recluse are spotty, and I think some people have yet to figure out if they really exist up here or if they're just tag alongs that come in by chance.

This is why dear friends, when I spotted this little lady making a home among my sedums this past Monday, I gave myself only a minute to freak out. Angie talking in her head: there are only two poisonous spiders in Minnesota. There are only two poisonous spiders in Minnesota. There are only two poisonous spiders in Minnesota. Three repeats of this and I was confident enough to step closer and say, "ah, ain't she pretty?" And she is pretty. Still pretty freaky, considering that body is the size of my thumbnail, but pretty. I immediately dragged my nine year old son outside so he could see. "Now don't freak out," I told him. He saw it and backed two feet away. "Let's kill it," he said. "No, we're not going to kill it," I replied. "It's not going to hurt us. Isn't it pretty?" I was so proud of myself, me, the biologist mom showing her son how to be appreciative of nature's wonders and all. Then I let him go back in the house and proceeded with my gardening - steering clear of the sedums myself, of course.

Later, I asked my husband if Ethan told him about the spider. Our conversation:

Hubby: "Did you kill it?"

Me: "No, I didn't kill it."

Hubby: "Why not? There's some bug spray in the garage."

Me: "That stuff never works, it just chokes the insect and makes it mad."

Hubby: "But you should kill it. What if it gets in the house? It's going to turn cold soon, you know. It'll come into the house."

Me: "I've never seen a spider like that in the house. I think it's a garden spider."

Hubby: "But you don't know, do you? It could be poisonous. It could bite one of the kids."

Me: "The only poisonous spiders in Minnesota are black widows."

Hubby: "But you don't know for sure, do you?"

Me: rolls eyes.

Commence project identify an arachnid - otherwise known as proving the paranoid husband wrong. As a side note: I'm not sure why my husband is always the one to worry about the kids getting hurt. He panics about everything - falling tree branches, riding bikes, rollerblading, he won't even consider getting the boys a bunk bed. I'm the one to say, "eh, they're kids. Let 'em live a little." Weird huh, considering I'm the one with all the estrogen?

Anyway, it didn't take long before I figured out exactly what kind of spider I was dealing with. The bright yellow body and the way she sat upside down were good clues, but more telling was the zigzagging webbing pattern. My little gal is a common black and yellow garden spider, also known as an argiope. They show up in the fall and tend to die soon before or after the first freeze *sticks tongue out at hubby*. They're non-threatening to humans and are really good for the garden - though after all the mosquito bites I got on Monday she wasn't doing her job that well.

The point to all this? Well, there isn't one, except that was the most exciting thing to my weekend. I became a field biologist and identified a spider. My question to you, dear friends, what is the most frightening insect/snake/lizard/animal you've come across in the wild? And stay tuned tomorrow, I shall post a review about a book with a slightly more frightening setting - the Australian desert.


Nomes said...


love that youre the tough one. me too (as in I'm tough around bugs)

i go walking in the bush most days. and see all kinds of stuff in there: goannas (there's one that lives in there that is bigger than me), snakes (which are deadly - so i have to be careful), echidnas, wallabies - all hang out just 5 mins from my house.

i've come across a brown snake a few times - once it was hissing and it was pretty freaky. we had lots when we lived out in the country.

also, a wild pig/boar. very freaky. they're powerful and insane and massive and not friendly.

and kangaroos are mostly okay - but i have seen a red kangaroo sparring and we were on our bikes and all kinda freaked out that it was going to attack us (me and my mates as teens)

lots of deadly spiders - but I'm good with spiders.

honestly, you know what freaks me out? magpie season. I'm terrified when i am being swooped and I've been hit on four separate occasions and they've ripped chunks out of my scalp and drawn blood. i really panic and let out little involuntary yelps :)

but i hardly think magpies count as dangerous :)

and i have a feeling i've just raved on...

i should add - i see sting rays a lot - and one killed steve irwin (crocodile hunter), which made them a notorious creature over here.

Nomes said...

argh! i didnt realise my comment was that huge until i posted it!

Angie said...

Haha - thanks for your lovely long comment Nomes. :) I knew living in Australia you'd make my little spider adventure look like a walk in the park. I have encountered a few bears in my time, but yeah, we're VERY tame up here as far as deadly animals are concerned.

Magpies?? Who knew?

The world is so full of interesting creatures. Thanks for sharing!

Nomes said...

Oooh - a bear (!) that would freak me out.

and, speaking of Lincoln lewis... thats kinda how I imagined Sam looking (from Nikki's Wish)

(you can google him in images). not sure how you imagined sam though...

actually, I dont even imagine my own characters - but do imagine ones in books i read. weird.

Joann Swanson said...

Beautiful pictures, Angie! She is a stunner and I'm so glad she's not poisonous (and that you didn't kill her).

Nomes - holy cow! I knew Australia was full of deadly creatures, but I had no idea how many! You Aussies are made of tough stuff. I've heard your box jellyfish are especially wicked. I was stung by what we think was a Man 'o War in Maui a few months ago and it was excruciating, but nothing compared to a box jellyfish I'm sure.

We have lots of black widows around here and have had to relocate a few small garter snakes so they didn't get run over by the mower, but we're pretty lucky in the city. Venture into the woods, though, and you might run into a wolf or a bear.

Jen said...

I have this overwhelming fear of the S word... just the word freaks me out and the minute I see pictures I freak, picturing them crawling all over my keyboard (see the insanity)

So I regret to admit that I will not read this blog post, not because I don't love you, but because it terrifies me. Oh and I will never be able to scroll down (at least for a few weeks) until I know the pictures are removed from my line of view...pathetic I know.

KO said...

So glad you didn't kill it, because I love bugs (and spiders too).
I have seen a ton of stuff because I used to work in the swamp on research projects. I've held an alligator, seen many water moccasins (you don't hold those), seen rattlesnakes, and all the stinging insects, though we don't have scorpions or things like that.

Angelica R. Jackson said...


Enough said

Angie said...

Angela - eek! that's kind of a scary picture.

KO- Somehow I knew you'd appreciate this post, what with the title of your blog and all. :)

Joann - I would not like seeing tons of black widows around. We do have them here like I said, but you see them more frequently out in the woods and such.

Jen - come back!! I didn't to scare you!

So here's my little bear story. We used to live kind of out in the middle of nowhere when I was growing up, woods all around and we'd occasionally get bears that would come into our yard and attack the garbage cans. It was kinda like someone shouting Fire! around our house, but instead it was Bear! And then we'd all race into the house and pray that our cats had gotten in - although thinking of it now I'm not sure why we were so afraid for the cats. I remember one bear who got his head stuck in an empty can of Crisco. It was awfully entertaining for a six year old.

Sarah Benwell said...

I think the closest I've come to a freak-out is during a close-up encounter with a 6-inch camel spider. Ugh!!



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