Ask Dr. Bleedingheart

Bleeding Heart BlossomsDear Dr. Bleedingheart,

Every autumn, the same recurring problem creeps into my marriage. Actually, it creeps into my house and spins a web in the kitchen window. My husband, you see, is a spider fanatic, and as far as he’s concerned, any eight-legged creature who strolls into our house is a welcome guest.

Now, I’m not advocating the wholesale massacre of bugs. I’m more of the sweep-them-out-with-a-newspaper type myself. I’ve even mastered the fine art of inverting a glass over a bumblebee and sliding a magazine underneath so that it can be safely transported to the nearest shrubbery. But this fascination with spiders is too much.

Giant orange-brown spiders show up in our kitchen every year around this time, as if they’ve been ordered up for Halloween. My husband is fascinated by these spiders and spends hours watching them build their webs in our kitchen windows. I’ve even seen him trap flies and toss them into the web just to watch the spiders eat. I’ll admit they’re interesting creatures; I’d just like them to spin their webs outside. Is that too much to ask?

Thanksgiving is coming, and I really don’t want my guests to find out that we have live bugs living in the kitchen where I’m making their stuffing. Also, the spiders seem to be getting bigger every day. I’m afraid they might be the size of the turkey itself by then. Please advise.

Signed,
Just Not That Into Spiders

Dear Just Not That Into,

As a writer, let me thank you for reminding the world that print publications still have some utility. Try shooing out a spider with the digital edition of the Times!

Now, I have good news for you. First, you’re married to a kind and compassionate fellow with a Charles Darwin-esque fascination with the natural world. He’s in good company. David Sedaris, for instance, has a well-known fondness for spiders and has been known to keep a few as pets. Think of yourself as being sort of like David’s partner Hugh, indulgent up to a point but ready to step in when things get out of hand.

And in fact, they have gotten out of hand. I suspect that your arachnid guest is a harmless, nonaggressive European garden spider, also known as a cross spider, easily identified by the white dots on the back forming the shape of a cross. Given the season and the rate at which they are growing, what you have on your hands is a house full of very pregnant female spiders. Please let your husband know that the only compassionate thing to do is to move them gently outside before they all go into labor.  The last thing you need is hundreds of hungry baby spiders in search of dinner while you’re making the cranberry sauce. Escort them gently outside and enjoy your holidays in peace.

Amy StewartAmy Stewart is the author of From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, and the New York Times bestsellers Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers and Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities. Find more from her at Garden Rant.

Submit your own horticultural question to Dr. Bleedingheart by emailing it to: christinag [at] algonquin [dot] com

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