The Great Spider Heist

One of my colleague has a lovely compost bin in their back yard. Or should I say, “had”. They’re leaving our fair campus for a new job in the big city of Madison, which caused me some worry — not just for losing a good contributor in the science & math division, but because, as I’ve reported before, their compost bin has a magnificent colony of Steatoda borealis thriving inside it. Nobody ever asks, “what about the spiders?” when they leave.
So Mary and I…ummm…”appropriated” the compost bin. Don’t worry, I asked permission first, and it has now been relocated to our yard. Just outside our door, where I can check on them regularly.
Is it not beautiful?

It was a disruptive process for many of the spiders. The bottom is open, so hoisting it up meant losing much of the compost inside, but we shoveled up much of it and restocked the bin. No doubt we lost some spiders in the move, but they mainly live in the tangle of webbing inside the lid, not in the compost itself. Lots of egg sacs were still there.

And of course, many agitated spiders scurrying about on the lid.

They live on the small insects that emerge from the decaying compost, and survive the winter on the warmth of the fermenting organic matter, so I threw in some old potatoes I’d been saving for this occasion. We’ll also be much more careful to toss food waste in there, to keep the spiders happy.
We’ll also rename the bin the Atkinson Home for Hungry Spiders, in honor of my colleague.
Although, I don’t understand why he didn’t want to pack up such a gorgeous box full of joy to bring to his new home.

This story has also been posted to Patreon, and I’ll post occasional updates on the status of the happy spider family there.


  1. Jazzlet says

    I have moved compost bins, unfortunately ones without significant spider populations. I feel a little sorry for whoever hired the van after us.

  2. magistramarla says

    Our community recently required composting, either with a privately owned bin like yours, or by adding it to the lawn and garden clippings waste bin. We didn’t want an individual bin, so we gladly contribute to the community compost pile.
    We keep a small stainless steel container on top of the waste can, add to it for several days, and then add it to the green bin to be picked up on collection day. Easy!

  3. azpaul3 says

    Is it not beautiful?

    No, it is not beautiful. It’s a spider nest. A whole bunch of them. Just sayin’.

  4. Ridana says

    How did you move that without killing your back again? O.O Congratulations on the acquisition though. :)

  5. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin asserts this is a plot to accumulate enough spiders to ensnare the evil cat — or at least to train it vomit it a place presumably more accommodating to vomit. However, she isn’t explaining how the spiders will train the evil cat to vomit in their home.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    If you have read the Harry Dresden novels lately you will recall he suffers from conjureitis; When he sneezes he accidentally conjures up stuff, sometimes including giant spiders.
    Let him hang out in that place while he is renovering, and the spider shorfall will be solved.

  7. lochaber says

    I used to really enjoy the Dresden Files, but after Butcher refused to make any statements or distance himself from the Hugo rabid/sad puppies debacle, I figured there are too many good authors, with values I agree with, out there producing more work than I can expect to consume in a lifetime, so I’m no longer reading his stuff.

    Some people have followed his politics and associations more closely, but for me, just refusing to speak out against that metastasized Gamergate bigotry fest was enough for me.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    I live on the wrong continent, so I only had fragmentary information about gamergate. It is sad to find out more about various authors and their stance.

  9. lochaber says

    It’s always sad to be disappointed by an author/artist I’ve previously enjoyed.
    If you are looking for something else to read, I highly recommend Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, first book is Rosemary and Rue. I feel it has some superficial similarities to The Dresden Files (smart-ass, loner protagonist, who gradually collects an assortment of friends/allies, power creep, etc.), but is more diverse and inclusive.

    I just really like most of what she writes…

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Lochaber @ 10
    Jonathan Howard’s novels about Johannes Cabal, necromancer and antihero is a humoristic dieselpunk/urban gothic series I recommend.

    And you are probably familiar with Glen Cook and his books about Garret, P.I. set in a kind of hybrid narrative arc that is remarkable in that he makes the seemingly disparate pieces fit together.
    Cook has also written the Instrumentalities of the Night series that deserves more readers, but you would need to write down a list of characters and of the lands and which medieval powers they would represent in our history (byzantines, the Caliphate of Cairo etc.) to keep track of everything.