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Thursday, May 21, 2009

One of the Dangers of Potting

I decided to move some rooted succulents out of a small terracotta pot and found a surprise when I turned the pot over to tap out the plants. This is a female brown widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus) tucked into the bottom drain hole with a silk-wrapped ground beetle conveniently nearby. The pot had been situated on top of a CMU (concrete masonry unit) (left over from our boundary wall project) while the succulent cuttings were rooting. Inside the hollow of the block I noticed several distinctively spikey brown-widowesque egg sacs as I picked up the pot, so the discovery of the spider herself wasn't completely unexpected. Still, I felt uncomfortable working on the plants with a venomous spider in such close proximity. The smart thing to do at this point would have been to put on some gloves but instead I proceeded to try to coax the spider from her resting place so I could continue with my transplanting.

However, she was loathe to abandon her spot, even staying put as I removed the pot from the rootball. You can see her still hunkered down among the potless roots. I managed to prod her out with my clippers. At first she walked slowly away, then curled up showing the famous hourglass marking on her ventral surface. Then she ambled off across her former home the pot and off into some crevice as I glanced the other way imagining I felt something crawling up my leg.

Use care if you are working around these spiders. I have found them to be non-agressive but the bite is reported to be poisonous and painful, though not as bad as the black widow's. Do not touch the spiders if you see them, but keep an eye on them. One way spiders are provoked to bite is when they become trapped within our clothing. If you were to be bitten seek medical help right away.

The prudent way to have handled this situation would have been to set the plant aside and wait until the spider abandoned the newly exposed lair. But then I would not have known where she crawled off, to now would I?

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