When nightmares about spiders started ruining Lynne Kelly’s life, she decided that the cure for her fear was knowledge – and so began her journey from arachnophobe to obsessive arachnophile.
Spiders are everywhere. No matter how clean, how stark, how sterile your home, the spiders will come. Spiderlings will balloon in and wait for the insects that will appear. Adult spiders will walk in. As you destroy one, another will take its place. Spiders are like that.
Lynne Kelly is a science writer who is fascinated with all aspects of the natural world. With degrees in engineering, computing and education, she has spent many years teaching mathematics and science. Other books she’s written are The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal and Crocodile.
By observing and studying spiders in the world around her, and learning from experts, Lynne came to respect and love these misunderstood animals – showing arachnophobes that they too can overcome the fear. How could anyone fear the characters in this book: there’s Legless, the black house spider, Erio, an orb-weaving darling and the fabulous Theresa, the wolf spider – among others.
If ever a book was written for me, this has to come close. Lynne Kelly has written a serious, funny and delightful book that features everything an amateur arachnophile needs. There’s an illustrated guide to identifying webs, a list of useful spider-watching equipment, observation sheets and lots of fascinating close-up photographs.
I must admit, I couldn’t put this one down, reading it at every opportunity and grateful for a three-hour train journey that let me finish reading it without the usual guilt with work needing to be done.
I have always had a great interest in spiders and other wee wildlife and at one time fancied myself a Densey Cline type, creeping around the garden at night with camera in hand to capture the drama that takes place at a miniature level. I did take lots of photos, which are packed away somewhere, except for a series of close-ups of a paper wasp nest with running notes on their activities I recently found in the linen cupboard. All this convinced me I was weird and eventually I stopped telling people of my fascination for insects and spiders. However, I still continue to this day to check the shower each morning for any daddy long-legs that may have ventured down to the splash zone. It’s heart-rending to see a grown woman trying to revive a limp spider that would be almost invisible to someone ‘normal’.
Then there are the clothesline webs – spiderlings that have ballooned into the pegs and set up home. Some days it’s difficult to find a peg that’s available for the washing. And the other day, I saw a jumping spider that looked just like the little guy on the cover of the book. I often stop to chat with my garden orb-weaving girls at night and now observe them with increased knowledge.
Lynne’s book has given me a newfound confidence in my own un-weirdness (about spiders anyway). It’s so reassuring to read a scientific account of the lives, loves and deaths of spiders that isn’t cold and clinical, but has real empathy and understanding of these fascinating creatures.
Let’s hope the book helps to debunk so many of the myths that surround spiders and goes a way to reducing the use of unnecessary pesticides. Spiders are our friends and deserve to be understood and appreciated.
Spiders: learning to love them
Published by Allen & Unwin
ARP $29.95, paperback