Today I am Death

As mentioned, my task for this morning was murdering spiders. Mission accomplished, and now I feel terrible.

It was a simple procedure. I put the vials of happy gamboling spiders into the refrigerator to calm them down and numb them — I gave them about 15 minutes of chill. Then I went into each vial with a paintbrush and teased them out, and they descended into a tube of icy, pre-cooled alcohol, where they died within minutes. Now their bodies are packed into a freezer, awaiting delivery to the person who will chop them up.

The worst part was going through the assortment of spiders in the colony and having to choose which ones would die.

You have to understand that this was the very first time I’ve had to kill an adult spider. I’ve been wiping out embryos right and left, and I’ve had adults die of natural causes — but actually terminating their existence by my hand? Unpleasant. I like my spiders lively and interesting. I’m a biologist, not a necrologist.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe leave the task to Renfield, if you can convince him not to eat all of them.

  2. cartomancer says

    Maybe if you think of them as tiny, octopedal Republicans it would be easier?

  3. says

    I’m assuming that spiders generally are like insects in that they produce a ton of babies that mostly get eaten, drown, or starve before they can reproduce. As I understand things, critters in nature don’t die of old age in hospitals with compassionate end-of-life care as a rule. So there’s that, if it helps.
    As for me, I started my day by relocating a largish, very ugly (to me) spider on my bedroom wall, which I hope makes up for the one I accidentally drowned 15 years ago.
    Actually, I’ve relocated quite a few over the years, including three before my most recent shower.
    Today, you are death, but on other days, you will be life.

  4. says

    PZ, the caring godfather of arachnids. I do appreciate that you treat your spiders with greater kindness and decency than most rtwingnut xtian terrorists treat anyone who is not of their cult.

  5. F.O. says

    Thank you for not liking it PZ.

    Taking life is sometimes necessary, but it doesn’t mean we should lose our empathy.
    (For humans and non-humans alike, because there’s far too many people eager to decide who is human and who is not…)

  6. azpaul3 says

    OK I hate the things. Freeze ’em, chop them up, fry them in napalm. I don’t care.
    My feels here are for you, Doc. I’ve been here near daily for 15-20(?) years. I know how much that cost you inside. Obviously you had a good reason. I don’t care about that either. Just empathy for what you had to do to your … disgusting, shudder, creepy … things. Sorry.

  7. wzrd1 says

    As a biologist, you well know that death is a part of life.
    So, when my time comes, I’m hoping that I get dropped into my vial of ethanol and that it’s the good stuff. ;)

    Perhaps, thinking of them as lions and tigers and bears, oh my?

  8. wzrd1 says

    azpaul3 @ 13, only cared after a hobo spider bit me and did inject venom.
    Then, the spider I ignored was a target of interest and I still have a quarter sized scar on my calf for why.
    The rest, I largely ignore, they eat pests.
    But, recluse family tends to like my bed, where I also like to be and once bitten, twice aggressive in defense.
    Thankfully, despite widow spiders loving toilets, they left my nuts alone, so they get a pass. Right until I’m bitten, then they’re a target.
    Paper wasps, they’re just a target, gave them a few chances, now they’re toast when we’re in conflict. The rest of the time, we leave each other alone.

  9. John Morales says

    I see nevermind has a morning mantra, probably recited in front of that crusty bathroom mirror.

  10. cartomancer says

    You have to wonder at the low standard of trolls we get these days.

    A moment’s thought might have alerted them to the fact that a bunch of progressive, left-wing people on the blog of a biologist wouldn’t find the thought of trans people, sex, or biological functions terribly insulting. Yet here we are.

    Maybe accusations that we’re furthering injustice, oppressing the downtrodden, or participating in imperialism and inequality would hit home beffer? Just a tip.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    Yes, the trolls these days are bland and uninteresting. When Ed Brayton was alive, his blog often provided pretty hilarious letters from trolls.

  12. says

    A query about your technique. I assume you want to compare the microbiome of the spiders from different localities but they have been living in he same lab. Did they have a chance to be in contact with each other. It certainly looks like they were killed in the same test tube of alcohol. Isn’t there a risk of cross contamination? Still it would be interesting to see the results.

  13. davidw says

    Shouldn’t the title be, “Today I am Become Death”…? And if you want to extend the analogy further, you can add, “…the Destroyer of Baby Spiders”. Asking for a friend! Any response may influence whether I come to Skepticon in August. Stay well, everyone!