The hobo spiders are moving in like a gang of rail-riding bindlestiffs, entering the house unseen in the night to set up their tiny barrel fires and hobo jungles in the basement. They used to be known as aggressive house spiders, but their aggression was found to be a symptom of their transient lifestyle. As the family bug assassin, I’ve crushed, flushed, smashed and squashed hundreds of these poisonous bastards over the years.
But this time, it’s personal.
I’ve never been bitten by one, and from what I’ve seen and heard, it’s no picnic when it happens. Unless you like spreading a blanket out in the park and enjoying a wicker basketful of festering pus pockets and scabrous, necrotic flesh sandwiches. Not me, thanks. Too gross. I’ll stick to potted meat.
Hobo spiders (portwinus unemployabi) aren’t the only pests we deal with, just the nastiest. Last spring we had an invasion of carpenter ants. They began showing up, usually alone, on a hallway floor. Or maybe the stovetop. Or crawling acoss the computer keyboard. These bastards are big. The morning I saw one dragging my favorite coffee mug across the kitchen counter, I said enough was enough and called a well-known pest control service that rhymes with Porkin.
The Porkin man arrived at my door soon after, outfitted in a crisp, confidence-inspiring uniform and hat. I invited him in, and he went to work. He inspected the entire house, inside and out, including the garage. “You’ve got carpenter ants,” he said, on his hands and knees, trying to yank his clipboard away from a particularly stubborn specimen. “I’m going to put some bait out and track them to their nest.”
“Oh, I think I know where their nest is,” I said helpfully. “See up in that birch tree in the backyard? Near the fence?” I pointed.
He adjusted his hat and looked at me like I was a baby who’d just eaten his own diaper. “That’s a tree house, Mr. Wire. Anyway, I’m gonna find where the queen is and take care of her. Once the queen’s gone, the nest will disperse.” I wondered what kind of plans he had for the queen. Sounded like he was going to disappear her. Would he tie some split shot to her body and drop her in the toilet? Would he put her in the trunk of his car and take her to Las Vegas and let Joe Pesci bury her in the desert? Man, this was getting good.
The next day, I saw a couple of ant highways outside the house, made up of large black carpenter ants, each carrying a chunk of yellow ant bait the size of a golf ball, if a golf ball was as big as a pencil eraser. I’ve read that these critters can carry something like 20 times their own weight. Impressive. That would be like me lifting up 20 dudes who are my size. The determined bugs were all carrying their tidbits to the backyard, where they marched along the fence toward the wood pile out back. I saw the Porkin man then, on his hands and knees, tracking the ants to their destination. He had camo grease paint on his face, a Taser gun on his belt, and was wearing night vision goggles even though it was 2:30 in the afternoon. I left him to his devices.
A half hour later he reported that he’d located the carpenter ants’ main nest in the woodpile. Duh, carpenter ants. I know, right? Anyhoo, he’d inserted some poison in there, and the ants would be gone for good within two weeks. “Now,” he said, removing his night vision goggles, “let’s talk about keeping the other pests out of your house.”
“Oh, the kids? Listen, I’ve child-proofed the house several times, but they keep finding a way in,” I laughed. He did not. Man takes his bugs seriously.
“I need to find out where the bugs and spiders are gaining access, so I’ve put some insect ingress indicator mechanisms around the house,” he said, hands on hips.
“You mean these glue traps?”
“Yeah. No poison. Just sticky as hell.”
Houdini found out just how sticky when he came running out of the garage last week, an insect ingress indicator mechanism stuck to a hind foot. He was shaking it like a Polariod picture, but the thing wouldn’t come off. I tried to pry it loose, but the glue in those things is stronger than day-old Cocoa Krispies dried in the kitchen sink. I finally had to cut off the cardboard around his foot, and let him chew the rest off. At least it would give him something to do besides barking at falling leaves.
Now I see the mechanisms are getting thick with hobo spiders, with their boxing glove fangs and little bandanas-on-a-stick. A couple of them have tiny crushed top hats and old work boots with holes in them. Hey, I’d like to help out a spider who’s down on his luck, but when their bite turns your flesh into something that looks like a burned grilled cheese and mayonnaise sandwich, I have to give them a one-way ticket to spider hell.
I was in the basement bathroom yesterday, sitting on the bowl, masturbating to a Musician’s Friend catalog. Just kidding. I was laying cable. Then I saw an inch-long hobo spider skulk around the corner into the bathroom, a shifty look on his face. I picked up the glue trap on the floor next to the toilet, and set it down over the spider. Of course he tried to climb up it, and was immediately trapped like a congressman caught with his caucus out. I laughed my best evil scientist laugh, flushed the toilet, pulled up my pants and gave him the finger.
“Bite me,” I said.[Bookmark NewWest.net/BobWire right this second. Good job. Now forward this column to ten people. Excellent. Take a break. You’ve earned it.]