The Tale of the Spider-Wasp

The Tale of the Spider-Wasp July 7, 2011
I realize this picture is not totally accurate, but I freaked myself out so much trying to find you an appropriate picture that I just had to stop. 

In my parent’s house, there are many wonders. It is peculiarly situated in an uninhabited few square miles in the middle of a sprawling suburb, so one of the said wonders is the magnificent backyard, which houses all manner of wildlife and the occasional skunk. The backyard also houses a spectacular salt-water pool, which I dreamt about during my summer pregnancy and which we spend nearly every day in now. I have been spoiled for life, and can never swim in a chlorinated pool now without feeling disgusting and wishing desperately for the refreshing salty water at my parent’s house.

But the magnificence of this backyard comes at a high price. Namely, during the summer, fall, winter, and spring months, the house is a refuge for insect life.

I have an aversion to insects. The Ogre likes to call my aversion a completely irrational fear, but I don’t see it that way. I see it as slightly overzealous caution.

It became clear to me, though, when we moved into my parent’s house, that I would quickly have to overcome said aversion if I planned on retaining my sanity. Up until now, I would have said that the insect that most terrifies me is a spider, and spiders reign supreme in this house. Little, lighting-fast black house spiders. Huge, lumbering wolf spiders. Those crazy flying spiders that like to land on your face. There are no end to the spiders.

But I learned that spiders actually aren’t too hard to deal with, when I saw one making a beeline for Liam. At that moment, my true role as a mother was made clear to me. I could face my fear without delay and kill the spider, or I could let it crawl onto my son, who would undoubtedly eat it out of curiosity.

So I grabbed a shoe and smashed it to smithereens.

After that, I became a spider-killing machine. Reveling in my newfound freedom from fear, I began smashing everything in sight that even remotely resembled a spider. This resulted in the unnecessarily violent deaths of many a piece of stray black fuzz and a few loose Oreo cookie crumbs, not to mention countless spiders.

I became like Xena in the face of spiders. Fearless. Fierce. Merciless. Slightly mannish, with subtle lesbian overtones.

(Just kidding about that last one.)

(I hope.)

Of course, it was only a matter of time before I would be confronted with a new enemy.

One sunny, hideously hot Texas afternoon, Sienna and I were swimming blissfully in the lovely salt water. Miraculously, Charlotte and Liam had gone done for a nap at the same time, so I immediately commenced doing laps and working with Sienna on her mad swimming skills. (For real. She’s incredible.)

But then, I had to run inside for something. And there, circling the patio door, was a wasp.

I am afraid of wasps and bees. I always have been, because I have never been stung by one. The idea of a bee or wasps sting looms in my imagination like being shot in the knee. Extreme pain.

I managed to dart into the house while the wasp was doing a particularly large loop. Sienna was, as ordered, sitting on the steps, looking annoyed and bored all at once. She’s not afraid of wasps. The little show-off.

Once inside, I grabbed the wasp spray and stood at the patio door as the wasp made loop after loop after damn loop. I was waiting for him to fly away for a second so I could get a good vantage point, then spray. But he wouldn’t. He was a sentry wasp, doing his rounds, determined to keep me locked inside the house on the single afternoon that I actually had time to swim with my daughter without toddler and baby interruptions.

So I gritted my teeth  and steeled myself. I would not let this wasp ruin my afternoon! I gripped the door with white knuckles, took a deep breath and…opened it one tiny crack.

The wasp immediately made a beeline for the crack.

I screamed, slammed the door shut, and frantically motioned to Sienna to just wait patiently, already, which was what she was already doing.

I decided to take a lap around the house to get a grip on myself. As a rounded the corner I noticed a spider on the floor.

Aha! thought Xena/me. A chance to regain my confidence in my insect-killing abilities! I ditched the wasp spray and ran for the heaviest book I could find, which just happened to be my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Hoping that Julia wouldn’t mind the blasphemy and haunt my cast-iron cookware, I headed stealthily back toward the huge spider.

One thing I’ve learned in my epic spider battles is to sneak up on them. They tend to skitter under whatever is closest when they feel a quick approach, and then you lose your advantage and give them the upper hand. So, in stealth-mode, I approached the spider from behind.

As I got closer, I began to realize that this spider was something I had never seen before. It was big, for sure, but it was also…fuzzy. At first I thought that it must be a tarantula, which is absolutely not native to Colleyville, TX, but as I got closer, I noticed…wings. And yellow stripes.

What the what? My brain froze. I froze. What was this mysterious creature? It looked like the unholy offspring of a yellowjacket and a tarantula. It was still motionless, but I dared not get any closer. If this thing could fly, a book wouldn’t cut it.

I tiptoed back to the kitchen, ditched the book, and snatched up the wasp spray again. I approached silently and climbed up three stairs, giving myself the upper ground. And then….I sprayed.

The spider-wasp lurched up into the air, only to thud back down as it’s poison-covered wings tried vainly to lift its creepy, mutant body out of the puddle of death. I kept spraying. Poison surrounded it, overpowered it, and yet still it struggled. It lurched, lept and crawled, every movement directed toward me as if it were determined to seek vengeance for it’s untimely and violent demise. Finally, after the can was half-empty and wasp spray coated the door, the floor, and pooled along the baseboards, the creature lay still.

I quickly cleaned up the residue of the spray and forced myself to wrap the mangled body of the spider-wasp in two dozen paper towels, then commenced mopping furiously to get all the poison off the floor which my son would surely be crawling across shortly.

All this time, Sienna had been waiting patiently. When I returned to the patio door, she was having an animated conversation with herself. I nearly opened the door when I remembered the sentry wasp. There he was, still for once, his creepy little legs planted firmly on either side of the crack of the patio door.

At this point I switched tactics, went out the side door and through the gate, and swam with Sienna for 0.5 minutes before the sentry wasp re-located and began circling around the middle of the pool.

I finally admitted defeat and lured her inside with the promise of popsicles. Once safely ensconced in the house, I called the Ogre, who was studying, and related the story. He didn’t believe me. I told the story over text message to my mother. She didn’t believe me. Neither did my father, my sister, or my brother.

Two days later, we were outside again when the Ogre spied a spider on the ping-pong table. He went over to kill it and it took off, flying high above us and up into the trees.

“Wow. That thing looked like a spider and a wasp had a baby,” he said to me. I ungraciously pumped my fists in triumph. “I told you! I told you! It was the spider-wasp!”

But my glee soon turned to terror. What if that had been the mate of the spider-wasp I killed? What if they were two of a kind, and the surviving spider-wasp knew, with his spidey sense, that I was the one responsible for his beloved’s demise? What if he was biding his time, stalking me, waiting for a weak and vulnerable moment to attack?

So now I spend my days in fear, watching over my shoulder for the return of the spider-wasp. It’s only a matter of time. The only question is, which one of us will survive?

*NB: In searching for a picture creepy enough to make you shiver and check your arms for bugs all day, I came across the unnerving truth about the hideous creature I killed. You can read all about it here. Warning: do not read this if you plan on eating today, or ever sleeping soundly again.

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