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DAN'S PAPERS, December 19, 2008 Page 34 www.danshamptons.com

Spiders

(continued from page 25)

pen before, also to a dog that had just had a bath. Odd. In a matter of hours that dog’s leg had swollen up. The suspect was an elusive culprit indigenous yet uncommon to these parts: the brown recluse. The news got worse, Dr. Yager, who eventually oversaw the entire run of Daisy’s decline and return to health, called to confirm Dr. Dubato’s warning: Daisy’s skin had started to necrose, it was turning black and could die off completely. I asked if she’d seen this before. She shot from the hip, “Yes, unfortunately, and it’s not good.” We visited Daisy every other day for belly petting sessions. The skin along her leg and elbow died off, leaving what looked like a burn wound. Skin grafts were discussed, biopsies and cultures came back but there was still no smoking gun. I called an expert on insect identification, Dan Gilhrein at Cornell Co-operative Extention. He’s never seen a brown recluse locally, but someone had brought in a black widow spider that had been living under their bed for quite some time. This, he said, is typical of some spiders. The brown recluse is so named because it avoids activity. They live in wood piles and won’t bother anyone if undisturbed. “This is an opportunity to investigate all the native local spiders of Long Island,” said Gilhrein. An interesting future project, but the fact was, my 70ish mother and 7-year-old nephew were coming to visit. I didn’t want to take any chances. I warned my family, an intrepid bunch who decided to come any way. A plumber had recently told me that my one of my neighbors was bitten by a brown recluse. He and his wife bought the house next door and remodeled it. Then one night she got

in bed and it was between the sheets. She ended up in the hospital for weeks. I couldn’t reach her to find out what happened or how she was treated, so I looked up the brown recluse on Wikipedia. It is a brown spider, with a body 1/4 to 3/4 inches long, displaying a distinct violin-shaped marking on its back. The venom is especially poisonous. This became the impetus for a industrial strength cleaning binge. It’s possible that the spider had been living in the closet I’d just cleaned out, inadvertently setting the entire thing in motion. Spiders like warm damp areas, just like my freshly washed dog that always plops down in front of that closet to snooze. Or it could have crawled onto her outside. She could have picked it up anywhere, but I began to overindulge in my worst fear — that I’d been living with the thing all along. We took the house apart. My husband tackled the basement. All the furniture was moved, paintings came off walls, things were turned upside down and inside out. Armed with vacuums, we eradicated the spider population. Daily spider reports indicated that we hosted many kinds. There were four spiders behind a print, seven behind a painting, many behind the bookcase with record albums that hadn’t been moved since we bought the house. They were in kitchen cupboards, corners and closets. Behind the kitchen stove, the largest wolf spider I have ever seen was curled up in a ball. This is precisely the kind of spider I’d put a glass over and transport outside, but reason had left me. I approached it with the vacuum. The spider was so big I could hear it tumble down the hose. I wondered if it would survive the suction and eat all the other spiders already in the bag. There was also the possiblity that they could all crawl right back out …

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After Thanksgiving dinner we all visited Daisy, turkey tidbits in hand and leftovers for Dr. MacLaughlin who was on duty that night. Even though Daisy was in incredibly capable hands and was beginning to heal, I was starting to come undone. Through the website JungleButterfly.com, I had e-mailed a rundown of the events to a friend, Michael Malliet. He had worked on the East End for decades, as an entomologist, in pest control, and raising bees. He now runs a butterfly farm in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. He knows the East End insect life intimately — a virtual walking encyclopedia of insects and their behavior. I was sure that he’d be able to determine if this was the work of a brown recluse. He called a day after, leaving a message that I replayed for the vet. “I’m almost 100% sure, more like 110% sure, that it was a brown recluse, Loxoceles reclusa. It’s the only culprit in the area that could do something like that, especially with the activities that you described just prior to the dog having reacted the way it did. It causes skin necrosis right down to the bone ... Fever accompanies the bite, we really don’t have anything else in the area that does that. And I have seen and met people who have been bitten by brown recluses.” “So that’s it,” Dr. Yager affirmed. A case of the jitters set in that I am still trying to shake. I’ve vacuumed the interior of all my shoes and I find myself investigating the legs of pants I haven’t worn for a while. I whip back the sheets every night before climbing in. Every little body hair that twitches makes me nervous. Everyone has a spider story, some people even have brown recluse stories. One woman gave me the details of her experience: her leg swelled, got very sensitive, and was burningly painful before she limped to the doctor. But she didn’t deep clean her house, fumigate or lose her nerve. Not so for me. I still have conversations with myself as I flip back the sheets yet again. After all, the house has never been cleaner, the basement is finally getting reorganized and we sprayed the yard with the wintergreen and rosemary extract that we use for ticks. Both are arachnids, and while the spray does not linger like a pyrethroid can, it is effective for whatever it contacts … at the moment.

Casino

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Riverhead, in a vast, but isolated, area in Calverton, and which is already has projects that include industry, resorts and even a giant, indoor year-round ski mountain scheduled. The residents of the Indian Nation, located on a reservation within Southampton Town, are still living near poverty levels. They want to find a solution to their economic situation while maintaining their tribal ways. And a casino would solve that. A County Task Force could help ease the way to finding this solution. We applaud the County for making this effort.

Dan's Papers 2008 Holiday Issue  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

Dan's Papers 2008 Holiday Issue  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

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