We rarely see snow in this part of the state, so when it snows it's really exciting! We haven't gotten any snow yet this year, but here's a look back at my winter garden from a couple years ago. In fact, while it was snowing in the deep south it was in the 70's here. I took advantage of the warm days to clean up my garden and prepare it for winter. I put an extra layer of mulch around spots that have washed bare with the rains and cleaned up the garden ornaments. I don't like leaving them out in case it freezes so they won't crack.
For this job, I recruited my toddler. I was trying to make room in the new shed for the ornaments and my son kept knocking things over. Giving him a job to do was a great way to get him out of the shed so I could straighten things up. "See if you can find any turtles," I assigned and he ran off on his mission with great exuberance.
A few moments later I emerged from the shed to check his progress. He was squatting in front of a hollow terra cotta turtle, tugging and grunting as if the thing weighed a ton. I came over to help him, flipping the turtle over to clean him up before putting him away for the season. As I flicked mulch and dirt away I suddenly discovered a black widow spider! Aaaaahhh!
This is only the second black widow I've ever seen. My heart almost stopped to think my son could have gotten bit doing a task I assigned!I used the opportunity to educate him about venomous spiders. This is the female southern black widow spider. Photos courtesy of emedicinehealth.com. From the top, she looks like a big black ant with a huge bulbous abdomen, but when you turn her over you can see the red hourglass. My son kept calling it an "Ant Spider". To their credit, it is reported that black widows are not aggressive and only bite when endangered or protecting their egg sack. However, with a toddler and a nosey dog around I can't take any chances! I hate killing spiders because they're such a benefit to the garden and our environment, but sadly this one is no more.
I guess I'll think twice now before sending my son out to the garden to poke around under rocks and such anymore!