Over time, I developed the policy that as long as spiders carried out their role at a reasonable distance from me I was prepared to live and let live.
Oddly enough my pacific approach was a phenomenal success in the garage. Apparently, the Daddy Long-Leg Spiders (Pholcus phalangioides) and Black House Spiders (Badumna insignis) control the more dangerous and highly venomous Red-back Spider (Latrodectus hasseltii) population and, although they were prevalent, we rarely find them now.
However, the outside of the house seemed to be permanently festooned with spider webs. The Golden orb-weaver Spiders (Nephila edulis) seem to thrive in our yard. Visitors from the city are often alarmed at the size of some of the older specimens dangling about the house and I have often been left with feelings of shame. Spider webs are apparently a measure of poor housekeeping.
I did feel vindicated the day my daughter arrived home from school with a junior reading book for her homework. It was titled “Spiders” and the text encouraged the reader to view spiders as friends and asked that they be allowed to carry out their job of cleaning up the insects in our homes.
But I must admit that there have been times when conditions can be too good for spiders and it can become too much even for me. One such time saw nearly every part of the house, fence and yard trees connected by the strong invisible silk. After being trapped a number of times, I decided that I didn’t need quite so many “friends”.
I am happy to report though that the solution to my spider problem came to me in a surprising form.
Although my children have never shown any disproportionate fear of spiders, there were times when I had wondered if the fear of spiders was innate and that the children just might develop a phobia despite my modelling.
I calmly asked her what she was doing, expecting to hear an anxious complaint about her neighbour. Her attention turned to me and her little face lit up with delight as she told me that she had been watching the spider weaving its web and, with great earnest, she tried to retrace the pattern of its movements with the index finger of her right hand.
The legacy of my "live and let live" approach to spiders continued as she grew older because, after one episode of cleaning her room, she become annoyed with me when she had found that I had vacuumed up a Daddy Long-Leg Spider from the corner of her bedroom ceiling which she had considered it to be her pet.
Looking back, I feel such pride in knowing that I have been able to continue a tradition of peaceful coexistence with these creatures thanks to my mother’s heroism.