We share our tiny abode at Navilu Kaadu with many creatures. One of them shares our country residence and graces our Bengaluru home — the eight-legged marvel aka the much-feared spider.
Growing up, one is conditioned to associate spiderwebs with neglect, dirt and dust. We are quick to ‘clean out’ the silken, gossamer web that a spider painstakingly weaves, in one sweep of the broom. It is fair to say that these remarkable beings have been unjustly vilified by many a Hollywood horror flick.
‘Putta putta jeda mara hatthithu, sone male banthu thoidu biddithu….’ (The little wee spider climbed the tree and it fell to the ground soaked from the drizzling rain…) — so goes the line from a popular Kannada rhyme of my childhood. I zealously tutored my then toddlers to sing the rhyme with gusto, during their evening walks, playtime, mealtime, bath time and bedtime! I’d like to imagine the poem played a part in their spider fixation.
I promptly enlisted the ‘jeda’ to imbue early lessons in patience and perseverance in my boys, as they watched spiders live out their merry lives on bouncy trampolines of their own creation, repairing and rebuilding the web after every disturbance, with mulish persistence.
We routinely spot several species of spiders at Navilu Kaadu. A glittering tapestry of dew-drenched spider silk adorns the ground in the first flush of the morning, transforming the field into a fairyland, so much so that I almost expect to spot teeny tutu-clad fairies napping on little spider web hammocks. Scientists have found delicate spider silk to be five times stronger than the same weight steel.
Signature spiders weave fancy webs that resemble scrawled signatures, across our front yard. Ground-dwelling funnel-web spiders are aplenty with their distinctive funnel-shaped webs. Predatory green lynx spiders, jumping spiders, ant-mimic spiders, orb weavers, tent spiders and many more spider species flourish on the farm. In mid-May this year, I literally ‘lifted the bag’ on a new lodger claiming a nook in our kitchen.
A huge, hairy spider, nearly the size of my palm and the colour of dark chocolate, rested in a corner beneath a paper bag. I figured that this hirsute bundle of legs was the fabled tarantula no less!
I had my first sighting of a tarantula on a trip to Ganeshgudi near Dandeli in October last year. It chuffed me no end to see the Ganeshgudi specimen’s cousin turn up in my own kitchen.
I summoned the family to meet our new housemate. We gently coaxed the tarantula onto a dustpan and left it in the front yard. It was love at first sight for our younger one. ‘Charlotte,’ he called the spider, after the eight-legged protagonist from his favourite novel ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E B White. ‘Cute and fuzzy...,’ he cooed and gazed fondly at the furry docile arachnid.
Our older one, an arachnophobe, watched from a safe distance offering unsolicited tarantula lowdown — tarantulas are venomous, but no more than bees are, they live into their twenties, they don’t weave webs but nest in burrows lined with spider silk, unlike mammalian hair made from keratin, spider bristles (called setae) are made from a substance called chitin, the same material that arthropod exoskeletons are made of — and other facts, till we had had more than our share of tarantula truths!
By mid-day, Charlotte had vanished without a trace while we were all busy with chores. Our preteen was disappointed when he learnt of his tarantula scampering away from what he had hoped would be an exclusive friendship, while our teenager heaved a sigh of relief, finally emerging from his self-inflicted exile inside the car.
We are though hoping to see more of Charlotte and its ilk around Navilu Kaadu.
Rooting For Nature is a monthly column on an off-kilter urban family’s trysts with nature on a natural farm.
The author chipped away at a software marketing career before shifting gears to independent consulting and natural farming. She blogs at www.bluejaydiaries.com and posts as @ramyacoushik on Instagram. Reach her at email@example.com