The first signs of spring here flash by like ghosts. A chipmunk dashing from the deck to the feeder. A couple of crows snacking on sumac. An eastern comma butterfly perched on a post to warm its wings.
And then the drips of spring come quicker and closer together. The first turkey vulture, the first sap in the bucket. Buds on the poplars. The first crocus. And then one day the sap is yellow and full of bugs and the driveway is more mud than ice and the sun is stronger and the green has returned.
And in that mix is one of my favourite sounds of early spring: the purring of the wolf spiders.
Sitting on a rock, I hear the dry leaves pulsing around me. Purr purr, purr purr. It’s a love song played by vibration. To woo potential mates, male wolf spiders drum on the dry leaves with their pedipalps. Singing with their feet, hoping a lady wolf spider digs their vibe and decides to make little wolf spider pups with them.
🏃♀️💨🕷️: I recognize spiders are not everyone’s cup of tea. They weren’t always mine. When I was little, I was terrified of them. I remember when it began. My parents were sweeping out the garage, and I was holding the dustpan. I can see it — the large spider running for its life ahead of the broom. Ahead of the broom, over the edge of the dustpan, up the handle, up my arm, into my shirt.
I shook for an hour after it was gone.
🕷️❤️🏃♀️: But that was then and this is now. If I was about to be swept up, I’d run for my life and into the nearest sleevehole too. We fear what we don’t know, and I have gotten to know spiders. We are now good friends, and a spring afternoon spent with wolf spiders is spent in excellent company.
For more on purring wolf spiders, I recommend Listen to the Dulcet Purr of the Wolf Spider (Smithsonian Magazine)
A short video from our woods: