I’m out early this morning getting a four-mile power walk in….sans poodle.  It’s poodle’s play day and he’s spending part of the day at Paradise Pet Resort (doggie day care).  Much as a adore my four-legged best friend, I cherish the break from him now and then …much as a mother does from the demands of a toddler….or a snarky teenager.  On this walk I am able to walk as fast as my cranky legs will take me without stopping for poodle to smell –and mark– every other tree or mailbox.   It’s a beautiful morning; the sun is shining and the air is crisp-cool.  Another morning without having to wear winter gloves and a coat…spring is just around the corner!

A good half-hour into my walk I get a call on my iPhone, interrupting not only my Spotify mood buster playlist of upbeat, happy songs but also thoughts about my ailing parents.

It’s the pest control guy; he’s calling to ask if he can schedule the monthly service for this morning.  Though the drawl is southern, I note a different voice; it’s a different fellow than my normal serviceman, Shaun. 

“Shaun won’t be servicing your home.  He’s got a new job working for his father-in-law,” says Jeff.  “I’m your new service provider and don’t worry,” he adds… “Shaun left a detailed list about the customers in his service area.  I know that I have to spray inside your home as well as the perimeter on every service call.”

I tell Jeff I imagine Shaun filled him in about the “crazy lady from California.”  He chuckles and responds that he’ll be able to meet me in an hour’s time. 

When Jeff arrived at the front door promptly an hour later I greeted him with a hand shake.  I figure he’s in his early thirties (Shaun was just out of college).  Dark haired, short in stature and wearing glasses Jeff seems like a friendly enough guy.  I tell him where I want him to spray and that I want him to cover an additional room (a storage/attic room) as well.  “It’s full of huge spider webs,”  I tell him.   I lead him upstairs, all the while telling him just a little about myself and that I am not too keen on the bugs and snakes here in Northern Alabama …or “middle earth” as I affectionately refer to my new (temporary) home.  Jeff laughs at my synopsis of my 18 months here so far and then says “Well, let me tell you a little about my background.”

Black Widow

Black Widow

“I love insects.  In fact my undergrad degree is in Biology and my masters is in Entomology.”  Impressive…I think to myself.  This is good. He really knows bugs.  He then adds that he raises black widow spiders.  Say what?!
 
Me:  (Incredulous) You actually raise spiders? 

Jeff: Yes. (Clearly he is enjoying my reaction)

Me:  Umm…should I spray YOU before you enter into my house?!

Jeff:  Laughing.  HA HA….that’s pretty funny.  No; It’s OK ma’am.  (actually, I’m thinking this is not a bad idea…no telling what this guy will drag into my house.)

Me:  Um…so  you love spiders and you raise black widows…. so…um…. just why are you in the pest control business?  (Truthfully, now I am a bit skeptical that he’s going to do a good job of killing insects and other creepy, crawly things in my house.  If I turn my back on him for a few seconds will he turn off the insecticide wand and simply pretend he’s killing in order to save an insect life?  I’m just asking…..). 

I think I’ve got to talk to Shaun.  Who wants to work for their father-in-law anyway?

Jeff goes on to say that he has a lab in his home.  “I actually study spiders and snakes,” he says.  “I have a snake…so much to learn from snakes too… (OH GOD) ….and I am studying spiders to learn more about their venom and their cancer curing properties.

“A cure for cancer….from spiders?” I ask. I’m starting to think this guy is borderline creepy and I wish I had my poodle at my side.

“Yes,” says Jeff.  I am interested in black widows because there is something unusual in their DNA; I am trying to investigate why black widows are always black and they always have the red hour-glass.  They never mutate; not even in the slightest variation…they always look the same.  We don’t know much about their molecules or their evolution.  They never change unlike other arachnids and crustaceans.  He then goes on for a time about spider’s webs and spider silk and developing technology to make use of their webs for surgical purposes or use in military apparel.  “Spider silk is stronger than Kevlar,” he says.

Wow.

Honestly folks…my eyes started glazing over; I zoned-out, I’m afraid but I snapped out of it when he said something about owning a patent for something spider-related that he is working on.  He’s hoping that it will lead him down the path to riches and (I’m quoting here)….”I’ll be living in a house on the same block as Bill Gates one day.”

“Oh my.”  Well, well….this is all mighty impressive,” I say.  “I certainly wish you luck in your studies…but in the meantime, I hate to tell you….I absolutely loathe these spiders and other weird Alabama insects so I’d just love it if you’d see to it that you keep them away from this house.  Oh…and feel free to take captives if that helps in your research.”

I later look up his cancer cure claim on-line.  I select one site and wouldn’t you know….

Spider venom has been studied as possible treatments for many diseases. It was found that solutions of very small spider venom could inhibit cell proliferation of lung cancer. black widow spider venom was found to contain a peptide that could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. In Australia, research conducted in the venom of the spider Funnel Web is considered one of the most deadly spider man, such as pain relievers. The poison of a spider from South America are studied as a possible tool to help prevent heart fibrillation, which often leads to death when a person suffers a problem with the heart.
Read more: http://healthmad.com/conditions-and-diseases/spider-venom-to-treat-cancer-and-other-diseases/#ixzz2thQcoH8w

In addition, I note an excerpt from a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts(Lowell).  She is also studying black widows:  http://www.uml.edu/News/stories/2010-11/garb_spider_venom.aspx

Wowza.  Well, it’s good to learn something new everyday.  Still folks. Have no fear.  I’ve no intentions of mounting a Save The Black Widow crusade any time soon.