As I come from a Northern European country, my experience of scary creepy crawly things is fairly limited: Margaret Thatcher, mostly. But I had a baptism of fire (actually fire ants) when I first arrived in the US. I discovered not only fire ants but banana spiders and other six- and eight-legged critters I never was able to put a name to, because they didn’t exist in the Old World. Suffice it to say that I’m a lot more nervous about these things now that I live here permanently–and since I learned that Tennessee, which is on our bookstore’s western flank, is home to almost every kind of poisonous spider known to humanity.


So when I was suckered into upgrading our bookstore’s basement (see my previous post) so we could put “another few bookshelves” down there, I was aware that there were a few straggly cobwebs. It seemed likely that there might even be an occasional confrontation, but it wasn’t until I began to replace the windows that things got serious.

As I installed each new window frame, I sprayed expanding foam into the crevices. After finishing the first two, I went up into the house to have my lunch. On my return, I was confronted with a whole herd of spindly legged spiders with swollen white joints and bodies hanging in the webs.


These things looked seriously scary, like evil snowflakes, but they weren’t moving. My assumption was that the foam had driven them out of their hiding places and perhaps given them a rather nasty death. But Wendy, being an academic, decided that ‘crowd sourcing’ on FaceBook would give us a more definitive answer.


Our neighbor and bookstore cleaner extraordinaire, Heather (while on an excursion in Asheville, even) found a match to the picture I’d posted of our spider. Lo and behold – it was officially named a Cellar Spider, and the white stuff was a fungal infection! I’m kind of sorry for them, having just got over a nasty cough myself, but don’t feel as guilty as when I thought I’d zapped them with the foam.

Now I wonder, did they catch this infection all at once or were they born with it inside them and it gradually developed? They are different sizes and yet they all have it; here’s what appears to be the tribal elder –



I should finally say that I’m generally amenable to spiders (as long as they’re not right in my face) as I know they keep less desirable beasties under control. However, Wendy, normally a circle of lifer and a gentle Quakerish soul, is terrified of spiders and has now decided the basement bookstore elements are mine to supervise. I feel more work coming on….



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7 responses to “Arachnophobiblia?

  1. Donna Chapman

    What is “crowd sourcing” on Facebook?

  2. “Asking the audience” in game show terms. You ask a large group of people on the basis that at least two or three of them will know the right answer, and that you will get good information from that. You can’t ask technical or obscure questions that way, but “what kind of spider is this” is easy. Also entertaining, because along with the true information, people tend to post amusingly creative suggestions.

  3. On Facebook, you’re unlikely to get answers to technical or obscure questions through crowd-sourcing unless you’ve got the right friends.

    (Just thought you’d find that example interesting.)

  4. Janice Brooks-Headrick

    Jack, PLEASE watch out for small brown spindley-legged brown recluse. They like dark quiet corners. Also, the black widow is around here, in at least two varieties. That’s the bitch that put me in the hospital. Jan

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