Arachnids cast their silken webs this week. There are more than three hundred species of spider in Scotland and this is spider season. It is the time when they are hunting for a mate.
The great house spider will be doing it audaciously in your bathroom and bedroom. This is when he comes scuttling from windows and the backs of cupboards. He moves quickly and he is bold. For he is driven with one thing on his mind.
I can easily hold one in my hand and remove it to a more convenient spot. But not everyone is so brave, or foolhardy. The MacGregor is a rufty-tufty clan chief. Yet he will run a mile from a spider.
We once had one crawling around the cornice in the bedroom. The chief was convinced it was going to land on him in the night and didn’t get a wink of sleep. He is not alone in his fears. Even the MacNaughties hesitate when an eight-legged beastie comes into view. They will bite at beetles and snap at flies. But a spider is just, well, too spiderish…
They do not bother me. For spiders do a great job in keeping insects down. So I can happily volunteer to hunt the house looking for them with a camera crew. We are making a film about it and I am in good company. With me is the President of the ‘British Arachnological Society’.
Try saying that in a hurry. I did practise before he came. This group has hundreds of members who are all spider-mad. They even have a ‘spider of the year’. ‘Cyclosa conicais’ is the 2016 title-holder. I have seen a picture and it is not a thing of beauty. Then beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.
Alistair Lavery comes over from Kinross. He brings with him an electric toothbrush and two plastic phials, each containing a large spider. The toothbrush will be explained. The spiders are a safety net. But the chance of not finding any, he explains, is very small.
A giant house spider can be four inches wide, so arachophobes can stop reading now. More bad news comes with the fact that all spiders bite. But Alistair soothes nerves. Our spiders are pretty harmless. Indeed, their jaws are not strong enough to break the skin.
Alistair starts up the toothbrush and puts it on the edge of the window. It buzzes and vibrates. Then a demented creature comes rushing from the cracks, waving its legs and looking for the fly.
It is ingenious. Around the house we go, finding and filming spider after spider. I should feel ashamed to be hosting so many, but Alistair reassures me. Spiders actually prefer clean homes.
When this film goes out, I imagine there will be children up and down the land using their parents’ electric toothbrushes to coax creepy-crawlies from the shadows. Or it might not just be the youngsters who are at it. If you do find one, please don’t hurt it. Long live the spider!