Tuesday, September 20, 2005


It’s the time of year in Johannesburg when we wait for the first rains of summer, hope hangs in the sultry air as we scan the skies until our necks crick. The rains are late, there is an edge of anxiety, our already hair-trigger tempers boil over breathing in the same sour stale air day in and day out. We need one of our famous violent thunderstorms to cut the tension, but the skies are implacably blue. The frogs are loud, they’re also waiting, any day now, one of these will unfold itself on your bedroom wall.

If you’ve met a rain spider, the pictures don’t do it justice. It’s the biggest non-tarantula spider in the world, the leg span can go up to 10cm, and they’re heavy.

I woke to one of these staring at me from the wall, stretched out in all its frightening magnificence. Being the practical sort, I contained my panic, got a tin and a piece of cardboard, but the problem was getting it close enough for the scoop-cardboard maneuver. I touched it with the broom, hoping to coax it into running out of the window all by itself, but it launched itself off the wall and plunged to the floor so fast I didn’t even see it hit the ground. I heard it alright, thwack as it hit the wooden floor. They're so big, their favourite food is our much put-upon local cricket, the Parktown Prawn.

Here’s some advice from Museums of Cape Town to assist you in your giant spider handling should it become necessary. The important thing is to keep calm, approach the creature quietly and place a transparent jar over it. Not me, I use a tin or something opaque, you can hear it scratching around in there, but the last thing you want to do is eye-ball it, unless you’re an entomologist or know someone who is.

They also advise that you not fling it into the neighbour’s yard, the way everybody does, apart from damaging the spider, it sometimes clings to the jar and when you walk inside thinking the job is done, you experience the ticklish sensation of something running up your arm. Put the jar on the ground and let the spider walk out on its own.

So if you find one of these little critters in your house, you know exactly what you do, don't grab the Doom, they don't bite and at least it means at last it's going to rain.

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