An unusual classification system

What a frightful looking beast –
Half an inch across at least…

Firstly, I apologise – things seem to be a bit spidery recently and I know not everybody likes them but they are rather a feature of this house so it is difficult to avoid them completely. Secondly, no pictures because the camera has gone away with the Man in the Shed until tomorrow (Hooray! Tomato pasta for tea, pass the rice pudding!) but perhaps that is better for the subject matter anyway…

I think the spiders can tell when there isn’t a caveman around to sort them out (see Cave Baby by J. Donaldson and E. Gravett – it’s a mouse but same principle applies) and double their troops just to make a point. I came downstairs this morning to find an enormous Fred sitting in the dining room doorway and had to evict him myself. I can catch them but I always worry I am going to squish their legs with the glass and then I worry they are going to escape just at the moment you have to lift the glass slightly to get it onto the piece of card and then when you look at them through the glass they look three times as big and then you have to carry them to the garden and the back door suddenly seems miles and miles away and then you have to do the bit where you shake the glass out and I worry the Fred is going still be in the glass when I look at it (or worse still – jump sideways and land on me) and then I run very fast back into the house and slam the door and turn round to double check that the Fred didn’t run faster than I did and beat me back inside.

There is a classification system for spiders that has been developing for around twenty five years so far, it isn’t complete yet but I thought I would tell you about it and try to increase its usage because then I won’t be the only one talking nonsense and I might get some help to fill in the missing categories… The system works by giving a name to each class of spider, they are proper names but are used in sentences as ordinary nouns e.g. ‘I don’t like the look of that Boris up there.’ or ‘I saw a Reggie hiding in that corner.’ which means I’m not really sure whether they should qualify for capital letters or not.

So in vague order of size, with descriptions and etymologies we have

Teeny tiny spiders smaller than 1/8″ – Unnamed as yet because really they are no bother and you could mistake them for an ant. How about ‘Mitch’? That sounds about right.

Emma – Larger than a Mitch but no bigger than 1/2″ absolute maximum – Earliest named class (circa. 1988 but needs verification) ordinary unscary spider so called because when I was little there was one on the wall low down near my bed and I got in a big panic and my mum tried to make it ok by saying she wasn’t scary and her name was Emma (it didn’t really work very well but I appreciate the sentiment) which probably means you can blame my mother for this particular lot of nonsense I am subjecting you to.

Reggie – Sub class – A particularly small and spindly Boris (See Boris) less than 1/2″ across with extremely fine legs that are very difficult to see. Named by a member of our Sunday school class (in approximately 2006 or thereabouts) who is now grown up and whose wife may well be reading this.

Boris – Daddy-long-legs/cellar spider – I don’t know when these were named but pre 1998 – when I was at secondary school my friend’s mum said she called them Borises because they are annoying and Boris Becker is annoying (could equally be applied to Boris Johnson).

Harvestmen – Unnamed – Similar to but definitely a separate class from Borises – Borises have a head and a body and harvestmen only have one lump with all the bits and pieces in (and legs of course).

Garden spiders – Unnamed – The ones with the pretty patterns on the back and the bottoms that are too big for their heads. The class is unnamed but the three specific ones  who build webs parallel to the path behind the greenhouse sometimes get called Enid, Ethel and Edith or similar. When they build their webs perpendicular to the path they just get sworn at. The ones inside the greenhouse don’t have a name yet.

Fred – Large house spider – the sort that is normally at least 1″ and you can hear their footsteps when they scuttle around the floor doing their nightly patrol circuit round the house. Named in 2003 – there were several who lived in the outside cupboard in Bristol and they have a very good sense of direction/homing instinct, I speak from experience… Also good at jumping, or at least deliberately falling (again from experience).

Dennis – One particular Fred who previously used to jump out at me from the storage box in the garden (Subconsciously Dennis the Menace?) but who hasn’t been seen since I posted his photo on this blog, perhaps the fame and the paparazzi got too much for him.

The rusty, metal spider who lives under the hydrangea in the front garden – Unnamed. He should have a name he’s been there several years now, he is about 10″ across and I bought him in the garden centre because he was reduced – people had bought all the other random metal animals but clearly nobody fancied the spiders and there was still a crate of them left looking sorry for themselves and being marked down so I liberated one of them.

That’s all the categories I can think of at the moment but I’m sure there are some beasties who don’t fit into one of these. By the way, don’t look at the ceiling just above you…