I Think I’m South African Now

Note #1: The title of this post is metaphorical. Native South Africans: Please don’t take offense.

Note #2: If you are afraid of spiders, I recommend that you do not read on. Images may be disturbing.

I wrote a couple of posts about rain spiders during my first year of blogging. The first post, Meet Millie, was written a week before I moved to Joburg, when Jon sent me blurry cell phone pics of a huge rain spider that had taken up residence in our house. Those pictures nearly swayed my decision to get on the plane to South Africa. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But you get the point.)

A few months later, another rain spider appeared in the house and I wrote another post, called Rrabobi!. I can still remember the terror I felt, cowering on the other side of the room, when Jon moved within close range of the spider to photograph it. I thought he was completely insane and could not understand the affection he had for these massive arachnids.


Jon’s photo from March 2011.

I have always been intensely, irrationally fearful of large insects and spiders. I could never have imagined that fear going away.

I was therefore surprised this past Sunday morning, when I walked out of my bedroom and spotted something on the living room curtain. I moved closer and saw that it was a rain spider.

I didn’t scream. I didn’t gasp. I didn’t scurry away. Instead, I fetched my phone and took a picture.

Spider b&w

Please note that phone cameras don’t zoom (at least not effectively). I got right up close to the spider to get this shot.

I wasn’t scared at all. I just thought the spider was beautiful and I wanted to Instagram it.

Quick aside on rain spiders: Apparently they will bite when threatened (a rain spider bite is similar to a bee sting), but I’ve never heard of anyone being bitten. Rain spiders are not dangerous.  If you doubt me, read this hilarious passage from Wikipedia:

An experiment was done in 1959 where a P. superciliosus [rain spider] was allowed to bite an adult guinea pig on the nose. The guinea pig died within 7 minutes, leading to a belief that the spider’s venom was dangerous. However, further research on anaesthetized guinea pigs showed that the original guinea pig had actually died of shock, rather than as a result of the spider’s venom.

Anyway, as the day wore on, I began to fear that the spider was dead. His legs were in a weird position and he looked limp. I nudged him with a feather duster and he sprang to life. My heart rate accelerated slightly when I saw his legs start moving. But again, I wasn’t scared. Just energized.

The spider stayed on the curtain for two days. When I got up this morning he was gone. I was sad.


Another Instagram, shot right after the feather duster incident. I had planned to take some DSLR pics later on, but he retreated into the folds of the curtain and I never got another clear view.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my feelings about rain spiders have changed, in the same way that I’ve been surprised by other recent changes in my feelings and behavior. This spider encounter was symbolic — one of many weights that are slowly lifting. And another sign that I belong here.

Now, if only my mortal fear of Parktown Prawns would go away. But like most other South Africans, I think I will continue to live in terror of those prehistoric monsters.

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  • Reply losmi666 August 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Reblogged this on fiverrearn.

  • Reply SouthAfrica.TO (@southafricaTO) August 20, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I leave all the spiders in our house alone….cause they eat the mosquitoes! Same goes for the geckos, I absolutely love them.

  • Reply Charles Visser August 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

    LOL… the rain spiders are fighting on our side as do the Parktown Prawns. They kill crickets in your lawn and only ventures inside to hear how grateful you are. They must think that EEEEAARRRRGHHH is how we humans say thank you.

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      I do appreciate the zoological value of both animals. But my Prawn fear runs too deep.

  • Reply eremophila August 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Congratulations Heather!!! Well done! The middle image shows the spider trying to make itself unobtrusive – so obviously more scared of you than you of it. 🙂
    I am wondering though – gone where? 🙂

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      Hopefully he has gone outside. I’m not afraid of rain spiders anymore, but I would still prefer not to be “surprised” by one 🙂

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough August 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    We have scorpions in our back yard here in Cuenca. Sara had seen one. I hadn’t. Unitl the other night on our back patio. Lord. it scared me. WIish I had thought to take a photo!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      Sometimes the adrenaline rush of seeing the scary insect overpowers the wherewithal to take blog photos 🙂

  • Reply Gary August 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    So good.

  • Reply Tenney August 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    “massive arachnids” — nice verbal image

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks, I’m glad you appreciate it.

  • Reply Neuren August 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Why did you not put your hand next to it for a sense of scale?

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Haha. I suppose I should have. I might not be quite THAT brave yet though 🙂

  • Reply beeseeker August 20, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Development, development, development: but you retain the wisdom not to put your hand next to it. You have my respect for your actions – and for such an entertaining post: good pictures too.

  • Reply beeseeker August 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Sorry, meant to add that in your first photo the spider looks very much like an octopus, with the position it has its legs in: is this usual for these types of spider ?

    • Reply 2summers August 20, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think pretty much any leg position is normal for a rain spider. They are real contortionists.

  • Reply victoriabruce August 29, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    We have a rain spider called Brumhilda. They live for years and seldom go outside their territory. Yours will be there to keep you safe from the mozzies of summer.

  • Reply Blair H September 2, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I love spiders 🙂 but my GF isn’t so keen.
    Rain spiders are really beautiful but i like tarantulas more.
    At the Cape Union Mart shop in Cape town they actually have a selection of Tarantulas on display.
    very cool looking ones

    • Reply 2summers September 2, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Thanks for the comment, Blair. I’m getting used to rain spiders but I’m pretty sure that tarantulas still terrify me.

  • Reply G October 22, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    My domestic worker got bitten today by one of these. It swollen up very quickly but she rubbed some ‘Antis an’ on and it helped immediately.

    • Reply 2summers October 24, 2014 at 7:15 am

      Wow, I’m glad she’s ok! Thanks for the comment.

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