Posted by: scribe9 | January 19, 2010

Webbed and bugged

It’s morning, and I just took the laundry off the line, regretting that I hadn’t brought it in last night. Almost every clothespin was bound to the line with spider webs. Although I’ve seen a few of the classic orb webs, the vast majority—those on the windows, on the car mirrors, and on the clothesline—are more of a patchwork type.

Yes, there are lots of spiders here. I’ve seen plenty of little ones of all colors, and also a big one called a white-tailed spider, once on a water spigot and once on the crank for the umbrella clothesline. It’s reputed to be poisonous, along the lines of a black widow, but authoritative sources debunk that tale. If it had been, that would be fitting—it comes from Australia, home of numerous noxious creatures.

 New Zealand is not totally devoid of pests, however. It’s above seventy, but I suited up in long pants, socks, shoes, and bug spray for my trip to the back yard, to avoid attack by chiggers and sandflies. Sandflies are cousins of mosquitoes and look like small black wedges. They’re particularly bad on the west coast of the south island. The end of the famous Milford Track is Sandfly Point, and a captain “surveying Doubtful Sound in the summer of 1851…was tempted but resisted putting the names Venom Point, Sandfly Bay and Bloodsuckers Sound on the map, after encounters with the biting insects.”*

NB: Doubtful Sound was named by Captain Cook, who wasn’t sure that once he sailed into it he could sail out. Yes, he’s the same person who named Doubtless Bay on the north island. The captain of the boat we took to Poor Knights Islands, which loyal readers will recall is named for a sort of French Toast, said that Cook couldn’t really be blamed for naming it after what he was eating; he’d named zillions of places, and was perhaps running low on inspiration.

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