Drought and Spiders

Yesterday morning I got up and went outside to check the rain gauge. We’d had some rain forecast, and there had been a light sprinkle when we went to bed. It’s been dry – really dry here.

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Total rain for 2018 – 120.8mm, compared to an average at this time of year of 395.6mm. Even compared to last year, a below average year, we’ve had less than half of 2017’s total up to August.

So of course, when rain falls, we all get excited, and go outside to check our rain gauge.

This is what I found. (Arachnophobes look away now!)

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The inside of the rain gauge was obscured by a spider web. So I took a closer look.

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What appears to be a large huntsman spider had taken up residence in our (very sadly) all too empty rain gauge and was clutching its egg sack to itself. When I looked up the maternal instincts of huntsman spiders, I was astounded to discover that they are marvellous mothers.

She’ll guard that egg sack for three weeks without eating, then help the baby spiders emerge, and continue to look after them for several weeks more.

I know many of you have run screaming from this post already, but no, I haven’t removed the huntsman from the rain gauge, as I can’t help hoping that I’ll be able to watch the babies emerge and snuggle up to Mummy, (OK I know that’s sort of weird) and I have this vague sort of hope that it will rain, but not so much that the egg sack and babies are in danger. Having just checked, that means she’s got 12.5mm before everything gets way too wet.

Our farmers are desperate. Rural NSW is dry and parched and cracked. In some areas, there are patches of green, where a passing shower has dropped a bit of dampness, but not enough to do much more than pop up a few shoots. The kangaroos are coming in to town to feed on lawns. The freight costs are insane.

Rural communities are pulling together as hard as they can, trying to help their farmers, and keep themselves alive.

What a lot of people don’t realise is the flow on effects. When meat prices skyrocket later this year and next year, many city dwellers will complain. But you can’t sell stock you no longer have, and you can’t breed from a herd that no longer exists.

I heard on the radio this morning, that Eastern Australia may well have to buy feed from the West. We’re talking 3,500km – 4,000km freight costs to transport stockfeed.

I’ve also heard some very uniformed city dwellers suggest that farmers shouldn’t be farming in areas prone to drought, but should be farming in fertile, wetter areas. Which would be where we’ve built our cities….

If you’ve read this and would like to help, then please do. Follow this link to the ABC website which lists how to help, and where to do so. If you’d like to do something different, then take a weekend trip to a rural area and pump some money into the local community. This town is one hour up the road from me.

This story features some of our locals, and was put together in collaboration by our regional ABC reporters.

If you want to know more about Huntsman spiders, here are two sources:

https://australianmuseum.net.au/huntsman-spiders

https://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/reasons-the-huntsman-spider-is-your-new-best-friend?utm_term=.dtpElD9Vd#.laMQApgRj

 

 

 

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