I Had To Kill Her…

Have you ever left gardening items outside overnight?

Like these?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, then you perhaps will have the experience I did yesterday morning.  I stepped outside, slipped on my garden shoes, picked up my garden gloves, grabbed my trowel, all left on the ground and deck where I worked all day the day before in my new native plant border.

Two days ago I amended the soil with compost and top soil, edged the border, planted shrubs and several Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), leaving the containers scattered when darkness fell at the end of the day.  Yesterday, before any garden labor could begin, I began to tidy up the area by stacking the empty pots that littered the ground.

I did a double take and skipped a heartbeat or two when I glanced inside one of the pots:

Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. I have spent my life trying to conquer Arachnophibia and here I was inches away from a young member of one of the most feared spiders in North America. She slowly lifted her legs allowing me to view the vivid red hourglass on her abdomen.  Goosebumps. “Spiders are our friends…” I repeated several times.  “Be rational. These spiders are not overly aggressive.”

What did I do? I’m not a person who kills insects randomly but I felt I had no choice here.  I killed her with a stick… a very long stick!

Black Widows have very strong venom but only deliver minor bites due to their small jaws.  However, the toxin they inject, although usually not fatal except for the very young or elderly, can cause significant pain affecting the nervous system. If you have been bitten, go immediately to the emergency room or call 911.

For the rest of the day, I jumped when a blade of grass brushed against my ankle or the breeze tousled my hair. I glanced inside my shoes, my gloves and anything else lying about (several times) before I wore them or picked it up. After all there are 200 eggs in each egg sac laid by the mother. I want to know where the 199 others are lurking….

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

14 thoughts on “I Had To Kill Her…

  1. My answer is…yes! I leave my “stuff” outside after working outside most of the day. Now, I believe I will look before I put on my shoes, gloves, etc. That spider would have scared me!!!!!

    Yesterday, I found a huge spider on our wrought iron fence…turned out to be a yellow garden spider.

    Also, you have a great blog. I taught in Fairfax, VA some years back and we lived in Arlington. Thanks for visiting my blog!


  2. We have a lot of black widows around here, especially in the cut wood piles. They never really bother us, but to be safe, we do two things. Smack all firewood pieces on the ground before bringing them in the house (as we’ve accidentally brought widows in to the house on firewood), and when we leave our shoes or gloves outside on the deck, we always shake them out before putting them on!


  3. This is probably a little over the top: I keep my garden gloves in a zip-loc freezer bag in the garden house, and I occasionally spray my boots with Raid. I never leave them on the garden house floor, but elevated, usually on top of my shop vac.
    I do exterminate black widows. Their favorite place is stacked flower pots.


  4. Speak of the devilish little beasts!
    I was bitten on my hip this very summer by a BWS and was laid up for almost a month!
    At first I thought I had sciatica and went to an orthopaedic surgeon and had X-rays and even an MRI.
    When nothing showed up there I mentioned the fever and chills I was also experiencing. Upon examination we found the tell-tale bite which looked like two very small dots about 1/4 of an inch apart.
    It was at the exact spot on my hip from which the pain that radiated all the way down my leg emanated.
    My symptoms were a pain in the you-know-what (the place of the actual bite); chills and fever and red blotches on my leg.
    Before that experience I always captured spiders and released them—in honor of E.B. White’s Charlotte—-but ever since then I go ahead and murder them.
    I have young grandchildren so I have to do what I have to do.
    Deane Ferguson Mills
    HUntington Garden Club


    • A month to recover??? I needed a first person story like this so I wouldn’t feel the guilt of murdering her. I know I did the right thing as I have grandchildren here, too! Hope you’re okay now.


  5. Yes, I still feel guilty killing all the spiders around here but it did take a full month from start to finish to recover.
    The first two weeks were hell but then symptoms gradually abated.
    Until I found it what was going on, I thought I was going to die from some strange malady.
    I honestly could not figure out what on earth was wrong with me. It was quite a process figuring out what it was but after the bite marks were spotted it all became very clear.
    I’m just glad it wasn’t a Brown Recluse. Now there’s a problem!


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