A confession…an entomologist with arachnophobia


Today could have been better on the parenting front. I set a dreadful example to my daughters. I would like to blame the environment but sadly it was my phobia so mea culpa. We were all getting ready for school and work. I was walking towards my youngest daughter and she screamed, “Mummy, there’s a spider on you, ahhhhhh, go away.” I looked down and there was a medium-sized black spider making its way up my skirt. I proceeded to scream and do a rabid jig – flicking the full skirt in an attempt to jettison the spider as far away as possible. That was a silly thing to do because now I have no idea where the spider got to and we were in the bedroom. Guess how well I’m going to sleep tonight. I might as well go and watch Dr Who Planet of the Spiders!

My eldest daughter wandered in to find out what on earth all the fuss was about. Summed up the situation nicely. Why didn’t you just wait for me and I could have caught it and taken it outside – then we’d know it wasn’t in the house. Sigh.

This was just another traumatic spider experience to add to my list. I like spiders. They eat all sorts of pesky insects. They make glorious, magical webs that fill me awe particularly at sunrise when drops of dew glint like diamonds on the intricate skeins. I just don’t like them taking me by surprise.

Janine North Devon 073

I ran out of a dunny in the Flinders Ranges with my pants undone once.  I’d sat down next to a hairy beast which with its legs included was about the width and breadth of an adult hand. It moved towards the door and I shot out because I didn’t want it between me and the door.

Another memory is of a trip to the letter box. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. I’d finished work and had sauntered out to the letterbox, taking time to smell the roses on the way there. I pulled the wad of letters out, the one at the bottom had a strange texture for an envelope, soft and fluffy. I was stroking it curiously. Intrigued I turned the wad over. I shrieked, the letters were hurled across the garden. I’d been stroking a huntsman spider. Those are the hairy ones that make an appearance in “Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Rings” and are also known as the Avondale spider in New Zealand.

I read recently that there is some evidence that phobias are handed down via some as yet unknown genetic or epigenetic mechanism. I am hoping my daughters are wiser when it comes to spiders but given my example and my genes I’ll be interested to see what happens.



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