According to this report, an insurgence of strange, unfamiliar spiders is thrashing and humiliating the population of black widows in Southern California.

Brown widows are less poisonous than black widows, I take this to be good news. Others, for whom more spiders is bad news no matter the strength of their poison, may disagree.

But anything that kills black widows is a blessing, in my book.

Black widows just look terrifying. During a visit to Biola University, I stayed in a hotel near the school and woke up to a strange sight. My vision was blurry, so I blinked and reached to turn on the lamp. What I saw was a black widow — unmistakeable, that red hourglass mark on her belly staring at me with the ferocity of the Eye of Sauron — waiting in a web that she had built between the lampshade and my pillow. My hand, reaching for the lamp, had somehow failed to disturb her web. So I rose very, very slowly. That upset her, and she dashed up the web, dropped to the beside table, and took refuge in a corner underneath it.

When I called the front desk, I was assured that this was the first instance of a black widow ever being found in their hotel. Uh huh. Sure.

That’s my one encounter with a black widow outside of a zoo, but it’s enough for me.

And, as many of you know, the spiders that live in my basement have been positively identified by experts as “hobo spiders” or “aggressive house spiders.” (Look them up… if you want to have nightmares.) So we don’t walk around barefoot.

I’m fascinated by our immediate, instinctive reaction to spiders. Why is it that I jump if I see, or even think I see, a spider, but I don’t if I see a massive black beetle or a centipede?

And this brings us, of course, to a much more important question:

Before the inevitable Brown Widow movie arrives to exploit the occasion of its invasion of Southern CA — you think I’m kidding, but Arachnophobia remains a cult classic, and there are at least seven movies called Black Widow out there  — which spiders are the most memorable to ever scuttle across a big screen? What is the standard that the makers of Brown Widow must surpass?

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