Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Spiders of Heidelberg (Speidelberg?)

Heidelberg was really beautiful today! The weather was perfect and it was just a little bit misty, so that the nearest hill was green, the one behind it was a faded green, and beyond that it started to turn into shades of blue. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to capture it, but it would have done a poor job anyway. You have to see it in person to believe it!

Last night we had a little incident with something a bit less beautiful, though. Well, at least, in the context in which we met it.

I got up to use the toilet around 2am, cell-phone-as-flashlight in hand. When I came back to bed, by the light of the phone and without my glasses, I saw a big fuzzy dark spot in the corner, a mere foot or so from my pillow. (One of the most sacred spots in the house, of course, is one's pillow!) I was confused. I don't remember the wallpaper there being peeled away. Maybe it's a dust bunny. Jeez, that's an awfully dark dust bunny, though. Could it be a spider? Man, I don't think so. It's just too big. We get lots of spiders here, but they're the run-of-the-mill small-bodied long-legged guys.

Curiosity got the best of me and I grabbed my glasses, which were sitting on the floor mere inches from the large mysterious fuzzy dark blob, and put them on. I shone the cell phone in the direction of the blob.

Holy mother of Edison. It was the biggest freaking spider I have ever seen indoors. It was HUGE.

I used my amazing mystical creepy-crawlie-fleeing abilities to vacate the bedroom in less than 0.2 seconds, leaving Damon behind to just keep repeating, "What is it? What is it?"

I know Damon hates spiders. "Don't look! Don't look!" I was already thinking about sleeping on the couch. "IT'S NOT A NORMAL SPIDER!!!"

He slowly put on his glasses and crawled over and saw it. He recognized it right away because he saw one a few weeks ago in the bike room. And these guys came up at work too. His coworker apparently has a lot of them. And found one on his pillow one day. NOO!! The sacred pillow!!

We should have had the clarity of mind to photograph it so we could find out more about it, but at that hour of the day it was purely an automatic reaction. Ridiculously large spider in bedroom: DESTROY. So, there is no photo and Damon promptly got rid of it with the broom. Then I couldn't sleep very well because it was hot but I didn't want to come out from under the covers. 'Cause you know, spiders can't come get you under the covers. Then in the morning I thought a dust bunny was another one. All day, I've been walking around with one eye checking the corners of the room. I like those little normal spiders even more now. If they're occupying a corner, that means one of the big mofos isn't!!

I actually don't really mind spiders if they're the normal kind, but this was not the normal kind. And I find them downright cool if they're outside, building nice webs in the trees. But in a dark corner of the bedroom, next to your pillow, at 2am, by the bluish light of the cell phone display? NOT OK.


  1. This sort of thing typically evokes the sensation of "Spiders, Spiders All Over Me" around our apartment, when it happens. The term is frequently abbreviated to "Spiders, Spiders."

    You know the feeling — you see some kind of creepy, crawly, buggy thing and for the next period of consciousness you can't quite tell if that's just the window or some other creepy crawly thing gently rustling through your leg hair, or tiptoeing up the length of your arm.

  2. erm — "just the wind," not "just the window." Sorry about that. I need sleep.

  3. I wish I hadn't read this just before going to bed...

  4. asljd;oaiweraslkjdfasr;oawjasdf i don't want to think about it!!!

    lucky for me, christopher LIKES spiders. he worked with them in a lab in college or high school or sometime. i mean, unlucky because he doesn't quite understand why i hate/fear them. lucky because he WILL get rid of them if i ask -- but not unless i ask. so if he sees one and knows its living in his bathroom, for example, he (and his roommate, damn her!) just let it be, live and let live and all that crap. when i finally saw it was like GET RID OF IT NOWWWWWW

  5. I don't know if this is going to make you feel any better but in the interest of letting a myth go on...spiders rarely bite humans. If you see spiders, it usually means there are other creepy crawlies around that the spider is subsisting on that actually will bite humans! The hubby and I are such nerds that we leave the spiders alone in our house. You can see this website for my details.

    Hope this helps! (gulp)

  6. I can't stand spiders either, especially when they are close to the bed. It doesn't bother me too much when they are in some corner out of sight.

  7. Cliff: Oh yes, we are definitely suffering a case of that! With diminishing severity as the days go on, thankfully...

    Mary: Sorry! ;)

    Sara: I often let the normal ones live if they're out of the way. Until their little carcass piles become too annoying to clean up, or guests are coming.

    Yelli: I think it's common knowledge that spiders eat your other bugs, right? ;) It's not a matter of being afraid of getting bit, but some kind of basic, irrational reaction. And it's not uncommon in humans so I don't think there's anything strange about it though it's a little unfortunate. Perhaps as a biologist you can think of a biological reason people would be born with this irrational dislike of spiders. (As one of my profs likes to joke, we can always argue biological plausibility.) But, as I told Sara, we do let a lot of them live. Right now I know of three living in the apartment. And now I'm even more likely to let them live, if the normal ones are taking up spaces that the big ones can now not have!!

    Bek: Exactly, close to the bed is not cool! Other spots I do not like: over the shower, down by the fridge, next to the sink.

  8. To put all this in perspective, I think I should say that this was no ordinary spider--it was HUGE. I've now seen two of the beasties, and I can confidently say that they are AT LEAST 1.5-2 inches in diameter with the legs spread out (I'm thinking almost the size of my palm) with a .5 inch body. And they are FAST! The first one I saw ran (with good reason), and it was merely a flash of light.

    I can usually suppress the basal fear I feel when I see a normal spider with reason, but there is a little fire deep in the depth of my soul burning with loathing for this particular spider deep (let me remind you that is extremely large and fast) that instinctively induces a fight or flight reaction when I see one. Let alone when I think about how one might crawl across me while I'm sleeping in the special way that only spiders can when they are hunting only to skidder off as fast as possible when I go to scratch that strange itch. *shudder*

  9. The irrational reaction is always fun. My sister has that too, even just thinking of a spider gets her going...

    I like em, personally. They're cute little useful animals.

    And at least spiders in Germany aren't venomous... much, anyway.

    Damon: Was it a Weberknecht/Harvestman? We have a hundreds of those living mostly in the basement and the garage i think. They can get a lot bigger than that btw ;-)

  10. Hi Kato:

    The pictures of Weberknechte on Google didn't really look like this spider. I think we always called Weberknechte "Daddylonglegs." It was a general term for anything that had long, long skinny legs and a tiny body even if said spiders weren't actually related. For example, I think the more common daddylonglegs where I grew up don't make webs, but the ones that live in the corners all over our apartment building do make webs.

    The spider we saw had a HUGE body by comparison, and the legs were nearly as long as a Weberknecht but were thicker. In addition, the entire insect was all black (or maybe dark dark brown). I was told by some people in the lab, who also despise this particular kind of spider, that they didn't think they built webs and that they are uncommon but not rare around Heidelberg. Unfortunately, they didn't know what such spiders are called...

    Maybe you've seen one?

  11. EWWWW! I would've had 'phantom' spiders crawling on my all night after that :)

  12. Sorry - My comment came off a little more "holier than thou" than I intended.

    My comments have nothing to do with having a biology background (I don't pretend to know anything about spiders) but from being friends with a spider expert at the local zoo was inundated with emails asking him "which spider bit me?" and letters with dead spiders in them asking them to identify them because they allegedly bit them in the middle of the night!

    I promise I won't comment anymore without rereading them or your posts to make sure they relate! As Homer Simpson would say "D'oh"

  13. Kato/Damon: I have to say, I didn't get a very good look at it, what with getting the hell out of the room and all...:/ But the pictures of the Harvestmen look like our regular spiders, which don't bother me too much.

    Cowgirl: There is a long list of things I've mistaken to be spiders around the apartment in the last few days!! Moths, dustbunnies, hairs, doodles, buttons....definitely feeling a bit oversensitive. :)

    Yelli: It's not a problem, I welcome all comments :D You never know who is reading who might benefit from whatever you write.
    Surprisingly (at least from what one could tell from this post) I used to work in an entomology lab! I raised flies and tested different natural products on them for their efficacy as insecticides. The other research there was on roaches. No spiders, though.

  14. EEEEEK! I hope these large abnormal spiders do not exist where here in neighboring Rhineland Pfalz. I might not make it through the fall.

  15. Diane, maybe they're just Odenwald spiders! :)

  16. I found spiders in our place that are "abnormal" in size and not your run-of-the-mill daddylonglegs...

    My solution: I bought a venus fly trap at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt. It eats all the bugs the spider would like. Maybe the spiders will move elsewhere. I also found that the heating radiators have a lot of spider webs growing between the elements. That might be a place to vacuum.

    I think I'm going to run out and by some more carnivorous plants.

  17. ewwwwwwwww - a friend of mine from arizona was living in the rohrbach area when we were both studying in hd, and had the creepiest apartment EVER. it was in the basement of the building, and her window was one of those that was at sidewalk level - so all you saw were people's feet as they walked by. and there were sometimes spiders in her shower (which by the way, was down the hall and only had 5 minutes of hot water in it at a time). not fun.


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