Terror in the Lamb’s Ears

They look so harmless.  Soft, fuzzy, lambs ears.  Don’t let them fool you.

They’re Evil.

My noble Lambs-Ear-dividing self was going to correct the fact they are overgrown to the point of hanging out into the path by two feet.

I start on the other side of the path: digging up, pulling apart, setting aside clumps to replant. I have my handy trowel.  I don’t wear gloves. I like dirt.  Dirt is my friend.

After a few clumps come out, I notice a bit of stealthy scurrying.  (This post is not for the bug phobic. If you are, stop here.)

Completely harmless critters. I’m a bit surprised to see garden spiders, since most do not like dampness.  Then I realize this is a dry zone: when was the last time I watered the lambs ears? August? The section I’m working on is under an overhang.  Probably didn’t get any rain all winter: it’s a miracle they are alive. Bad gardener!

Stuff you need to know: my brother has a master’s degree in bugs. (Really)

He knew what he wanted to do when he was seven. I was the kid sister who pestered the crap out of him.  (It’s possible I still pester the crap out of him, but there’s medication for that now, so I wouldn’t know.) Random fact: this is the same brother who knew where to find the animal lending library.

I have rarely backed down from a dare.  A dare from my older brother? Ha. It was a done deal. I picked up tarantulas, lizards, snapping turtles, and snakes. He showed me how to safely pick up a scorpion. (Safely is relative, FYI.) He’d laugh himself silly after directing me to point at a certain lizard, only to have it lunge and clamp onto my finger (OW!) with a vengeance, while I hopped around trying to shake the sucker off.

Of course he knew it would bite me. Why else would he have asked me to point it out?

This is why, when I picked up a clump of dry lambs ears, and saw a very shiny black spider about to pounce on a very shiny brown spider, I had six kinds of heart attacks.

The spiders were, respectively, a black widow, and a brown recluse. Mortal enemies. That’s not saying much: everything is a mortal enemy to a black widow, including other black widows. Black widows are scary.  Just seeing a brown recluse equals being near a sealed vial of Polonium-210,

I smash the crap out of them.  Totally dead.  Farther along, I find two more black widows, and kill them too. They’re not near each other. Widows are bugs with territory.  I get to a damp area: I’m safe.  Black widows do not like light, air movement, or dampness.  Thus why they are usually in woodpiles or under a house. Never in a garden, unless you live in the desert. Or at Jane’s house.

We had some work done under the house.  The spiders probably high-tailed it out when the side was ripped off and light and air swept through.

Next time, gloves. I had on long sleeves, old jeans and a hat. My gardening jeans are comfy. (read: nice and loose) I had to keep hitching them up.

That night, I didn’t feel so good.  Not the flu again! To top it off, I developed a sore lump on my butt.  How attractive. I smeared some antibiotic cream on the bump and focused on the flu.

The next ten days were migraine hell. I was ready to slice off my own head to make it stop. I don’t get headaches, let alone migraines.  So weird.  Chills.  Nausea.  You folks who get them? You are some seriously tough, life-affirming people.

Eventually my head started hurting less, and my butt started hurting more.  I’m thinking Really?  Really?  After all that I still have a stupid lump? I looked up “boils” on the internet.  My advice?

Don’t.

Look.

EWWWWwwwww.

Luckily, my lump looked nothing like a boil. Whew. The relief!

Then my imagination kicked in.

OH. NO.

Is there such a thing as butt cancer?!

I frantically search pictures of lumps on a medical website.

Gradually, I begin to piece events together while looking at some very gross photos.

OH. NO. It can’t be…?

I haven’t told Shaun about the lump. Now I have to drop my drawers and ask her to look. Mor-ti-fy-ing.  She said “no big deal”. (Right, staring at lump on loved one’s bum is so romantic.)

“Honey?  Do you see two red dots in the middle of the lump? Kinda lined up?”, I say.

Shaun looks up at me.  “How did you know?”

“It’s a spider bite”, I say, yanking up my drawers. I wisely do not tell her my suspicions.  I look up symptoms of a black widow bite: uncontrollable migraine-like headache, nausea, chills, fever, severe aches, sometimes pain…treatment is anti-venom, some immediate relief can be had by taking antihistamines. Victim should get to hospital right away.

The light goes on.

I take a kazillion antihistamines every day, because I’m lethally allergic to senseless stuff that no one is allergic to.  I keep a certain amount of antihistamine in my blood stream at all times.

The good: huge amounts of antihistamine kept me from dying, or at least having worse symptoms.

The bad: it took me almost two weeks to figure out I got bit by a black widow, when a hospital (hopefully) would have been able to treat it immediately, no prolonged suffering.

This is what I want to know:

  1. Can one build up antibodies to the venom, if one is exposed?
  2. When can I sit down again?

I doubt I will ever forget to water anything in the garden, ever again. I am also no longer toying with the idea of xeriscaping.

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27 thoughts on “Terror in the Lamb’s Ears

  1. dressage rider

    OMG! I hope you’ve fully recovered by now. I was bitten (suspected spider but never seen) while ripping out shrubs many years ago. On top of that I got “contact dermatitis”. It was weeping so badly that I had both of my forearms wrapped in gauze. I looked like a burn victim on Mother’s Day that year. Sigh. No more gardening without gloves, long sleeves, pants, etc.

    Reply
  2. theliteraryhorse Post author

    Honestly, I don’t think we need to be afraid of lambs ears. 😉 It was a combination of disturbing their natural habitat, Jane being dumb and thinking “Oh I’ll just smoosh them” instead of say, WATERING, the garden, and not instantly getting gloves and tucking pants into socks. Black widows are notoriously reclusive. It didn’t occur to me the super dry lambs ears would be an ideal vacation home: hot, dark, airless and dry between leaves and pavement. They weren’t in the dirt part, they were on the paved part.

    Reply
  3. Laurie

    Ummm owwie. Glad you had enough antihistamine in your system, but scar nonetheless. Sorry you had to endure migrane/flu and the rest of the nasty spidey bite symptoms.

    I am relieved that you are okay – you are okay right? Maybe a Doctor visit to confirm? This calls for a get well from your spider bite cake (or cupcakes). Definitely cupcakes.

    Reply
  4. Annette

    I guess I should wear gardening gloves – we have both black widows and brown recluse here as well. I have a friend who lost a horse to a brown recluse spider bite. A big honkin’ healthy Friesian no less. Scary. So glad you are okay!

    Reply
  5. Winter

    We had a black widow in the mailbox once. Freaked me out, but I honestly didn’t know they were poisonous! Egads. So can a doctor help at this point?

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      They are poisonous, but rarely does anyone die from a bite. My brother made me feel better by letting me know that (don’t read further if can’t deal with spider stuff, I mean it!!) daddy long legs – the cute spiders – have venom lethal enough to kill humans quickly. Way more deadly than black widows or brown recluses. But they can’t bite people. Their jaws are so small they can’t open them wide enough to bite humans. So we’re safe. Even from the really big daddy long legs.

      Reply
  6. Marissa

    OMG Jane. A BLACK WIDOW? Seriously? A Black Widow? Really? (Why did I read this before bed?) So THAT’s why you were mysteriously ill and suffering from intense migraines? You were bitten by a notoriously poisonous spider? And you thought you had butt cancer? BUTT CANCER? Really? (Wait, is there such a thing as butt cancer?) I have so many questions from this post… but I am very glad to hear that you are okay. Poor Jane. It never ends.

    Baby Barbie yet?

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      I know. Late at night Google searches are a bad idea. Butt cancer? Seriously, Jane? (As far as I know, “Butt Cancer” is only a Jane Diagnosis.)

      Except for a sore lump the size of a large nickel, I’m fine. I figured out exercise must release whatever venom is still trapped in the muscle, so I’m drinking lots of water, and moving slow and steady (No more headaches!)

      No baby Barbie yet. I took a video of her this morning (doing what she now does best: eating). I’ll post it if I can figure out how to get a cell video up. She’s HUGE. Bagging up some, no wax, getting softer in the rump muscles, rib cage is definitely sprung. But her eye was more inward today, and it was the first day I really felt we were in the home stretch. Baby. Soon. Within days is my prediction. 🙂

      Reply
  7. AareneX

    Just in case ANY of y’all need more convincing: there are NO POISONOUS SPIDERS OR SNAKES in the Swamplands.

    Every once in a while, some exotic hitches a lift via a box of bananas or a crate of cantelopes…and it’s dead of Moisture Poisoning by sundown.

    Zzzzzzzzap!

    Reply
    1. Oregon Sunshine

      I beg to differ, Aarene! I grew up in Swampland. There ARE black widows, brown recluse (more common than black widows), hobo spiders (whose venom could kill a small child) and funnel webs (also highly poisonous). However, you are correct with the no poisonous snakes. I’m not so down with roaming around the woods here in GA, knowing they (and other spiders not in the PNW!!) could be lurking in the woods out back, just waiting for me!

      Reply
  8. Teresa

    eek and eew. I am developing a sympathetic bug bite as I type this. I have Lamb’s ears. I love them. I don’t think black widows and brown recluse can live in my neck of the woods. I hope so. God, now I have to look it up. :O

    But I am compulsive about washing and checking grapes after people reported find black widows hitching rides in them up to Canada. they must have heard about our universal health care. 🙂

    Reply
  9. funder

    Eeeek, scary stuff! My dad’s been bitten by brown recluses – absolutely horrible wound, long drawn out healing process. Are you gonna go to the doctor? (Is there anything they can do at this point?) Does Shaun read the blog (i.e. did you just bust yourself?)

    Oh well – you really needed to work on your two-point, right?

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      I told Shaun I thought I got bit by a black widow a couple of weeks (!) ago and that’s why the unending headache with accompanying neurological features and the flu no one else caught.

      Like most horse people, does it count that I thought about going to the doctor?

      When I called the clinic, they wanted me to bring the spider with me.
      Let’s all pause to consider the logistics of this request. Do I convince the spider I’m giving it a surprise party, and THAT’S why it has to come with me? My impression from clinic was no anti-venom unless they see the black widow, but I didn’t ask. I didn’t actually have the spider or even see the spider.

      I just sat on the spider.

      It’s also slightly humiliating to admit the spider bit me, um, 10 days ago? Or so. Maybe 14? (I hate looking stupid.)

      Now the brown recluse, shoot that is totally horrible scary stuff. Is your dad okay??

      Reply
      1. funder

        Oh yeah, he’s fine, he just had this really gross looking ulcerated nonhealing wound on his hand for like 6 months. Of course he didn’t go to the doctor – he’s not a horse person, but he’s definitely where I get my non doctoring ways!

        *I* think not knowing when the spider bit you is just a sign of your superior constitution. “Oh yeah, I got bit by a black widow once and it took two weeks for me to notice. Ain’t no thang.” Remember: it didn’t take two weeks for you to figure it out, it took two weeks for you to notice. Crucial difference. Makes you look way more badass. 😉

        Reply
        1. theliteraryhorse Post author

          Badass is so much better than ignorant fool who can’t connect the dots. We’re going with Badass! 🙂

          Your poor dad, that’s what I’ve heard about brown recluse bites…they really don’t want to heal, take forever, and are dangerous and uncomfortable!

          Reply
  10. Barbara

    I just heard somewhere over the weekend that black widows are actually rarely lethal. You have to be allergic to them specifically or something, I wasn’t listening that close.
    Seriously, you get my sympathy, yuck and ow! Hope you heal up fast.

    Reply
    1. Oregon Sunshine

      Um, YES, we do have them! We even have a small population of them in Alaska! I was dumb enough about 11 years ago to move one that found it’s way inside the house, back to the outdoors. I swear same spider came back in a couple hours later. That time, I trapped it in a glass to move it and could see it’s fangs. Yes, it’s fangs were visible! The third time I caught it in the house? I killed it with bathroom spray cleaner and washed it down the drain for a long, long time with hot water. Ick!

      And Jane…

      EEEEKKK! I’ve occasionally been bit by spiders and not known what sort. The last “exciting” bite I had, it left it’s fangs behind and the bite got infected. I also hallucinated and was pretty sick. I REALLY hallucinated! At one point, I thought my collie-mal-wolf hybrid X’s paws were HUGE ice spiders coming to get me. She was sleeping by the front door, just feet from me in the kitchen, but all I could see were the ice spiders. I grabbed a big knife out of the block and luckily, my husband came into the kitchen, saving both me and the dog (because she probably would have bit me).

      So, you have lots and lots of spider bite sympathy from me!

      Reply
      1. Oregon Sunshine

        Also, just after writing the last comment, I went into my dark kitchen, was distracted by my dog, and then stepped back onto a piece of uneaten pizza left over from dinner that apparently didn’t get put away and that apparently one of my cats “tasted”. I swear I jumped 10′ into the air! It’s dark out, it’s late, soon to be thunder storm-y and now I have the heebie jeebies! Great storytelling!

        Reply

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