Monday, 24 August 2015

Flies and spiders

As I shooed a small fly away from the breakfast table this morning Phil commented on the unusually large number of flies in the playing room at the chess tournament in Mondariz. Now, this was in a smart hotel. My experience in recent years is that there are remarkably few flies in smart hotels. What do they do to keep them out? 

In fact, there are fewer flies around in general than there used to be. Modern insecticides must have done for them. I can remember being on holiday in the 1970s in the French Pyrenees and flies being an almost expected part of the holiday. The farmhouse where we stayed had long (rather gruesome) strings of flypaper hanging from the ceiling in the main room on the ground floor. From the moment the sun came up, the flies woke up, flew around like idiots and were stuck on the fly paper! I wonder if they still have all those flies there. I suspect not. 

Then there are spiders, of which there are far more than I ever remember in my childhood, despite the greater number of flies for them to feed on. In our house in the UK, we regularly catch large spiders and throw them out of the window. Here in the flat in Vigo, I have not seen a single spider! Can they not climb up seven floors? Are lower floors infested with spiders? Do you find spiders in the "bajos", down at street level where spiders do not have to climb stairs to get in? Are there more spiders in British homes because more of us live in houses? 

I tried researching it on the internet and found all sorts of stuff about the kinds of spiders you can find in Spain but nothing about the frequency of house spiders. 

Now, I do know Spaniards who would say that it is because English houses are dirty. This is partly because they disapprove of the English habit of carpeting everywhere, including kitchens and bathrooms, a strange custom I have never understood. But on the whole it is one of those incomprehensible misconceptions. Almost every nation considers others less meticulous than themselves in cleaning habits. 

I have also heard puzzlement about the lack of mixer taps in English homes, not to mention showers (less so nowadays, although some English homes with older plumbing systems still only have bathtubs) and bidets. 

But I can imagine hoards of British housewives who dust and vacuum daily, if not more frequently, being very insulted at the idea that their homes are not clean! 

The fact remains, however, that spiders do invade English homes. And this year warnings are going out about large house spiders, affectionately referred to by one expert as the “golden retrievers” of the spider world, making their way indoors. The explanation is the warm weather enjoyed across the UK in the past months. Truly, that is what the article in the newspaper said! I am sure that many Spaniards of my acquaintance would hold their hands up in amazement. A German friend of mine , resident in Greater Manchester, who has complained about needing the heating on in recent "summer" months would agree with them. But there it is. 

Experts say that the "warm weather" has contributed to an accelerated growth of the house spiders, who despite their name, usually live outdoors. The male spiders migrate indoors at the end of the summer looking for a mate. Foolish males! Don't they know that female spiders are said to eat their mates after having their wicked way with them? 

These spiders can grow to be a large as 12 centimetres wide. For those of us who were not brought up in the metric system, that's about 4.5 inches. THAT IS HUGE!! 

A spider expert warned that the spiders' bite (yes, their BITE!) can be similar to a bee sting if the skin was pierced. She went on to say that this was unlikely to happen as long as people did not antagonise the insects and treated them sensibly. Should we really have to worry about "antagonising" spiders. If I saw one 12 centimetres wide I would be more concerned it might antagonise me! Goodness knows how our grandson will react of he finds out. We have enough trouble with his almost pathological fear of wasps. 

The arachnid expert went on to say, “The best thing is to put a container over them and scoop them up with a postcard and escort them out. The risk of a bite even inadvertently if you're in the garden is very small." Well, that's reassuring, isn't it? 

It's also quite good to know that my method of dealing with invading spiders is approved of by the experts. 

Though quite where one finds a container and a postcard of the dimensions to trap a 4.5 inch spider, without crushing its legs, let alone risking antagonising it, is another matter altogether.

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