By Sophie May, Community Fellow
Similar to the hardcore Nicki Minaj fans - lovingly known as the Barbz - the Barb on our farm was prolific, spent a lot of time on the web, valued beauty, effused both charisma and talent, and was a bit of a man-eater.
However, the similarities end there.
Barb was small compared to a human, but pretty stinking huge for a spider. Belonging to the Araneidae family, Barb was what is commonly known as a Black and Yellow Garden Spider, a Writing Spider, or a Zig-zag spider - a name given due to the distinctive zig-zag pattern these spiders create in their webs.
About the size of your palm, with eight long, shiny black-and-yellow striped legs, many beady eyes on her small, greyish thorax, and a huge black, yellow and white abdomen, Barb was truly magnificent. Every time we harvested tomatoes in the caterpillar tunnel where she made her home, we would check in on her, and usually would find her enjoying a tasty breakfast of fresh, wild-caught cricket or day-old grasshopper.
Barb had a long and full life, from the May of her youth to the September of her dotage. Barb had many suitors in her younger days, but she kept her life drama-free by mating with each of them - and then eating them when they forgot to tidy up the web or bothered her before she had her morning cricket. This only grew Barb’s beauty and allure. She was truly the matriarch of the farm, sitting queen-like on her web and presiding over all she could see. No insect could hope to pass through her tunnel without the danger of being caught trespassing in her web, and none survived the web of Barb.
As Spring turned to Summer, we began to see tiny Barbs appear on other tomato plants, as Barb’s children ventured out into the world to build their own webs, start their own Barb families, and spread the word of Barb far and wide. Soon, there wasn’t a corner of the caterpillar tunnel that didn’t have its own resident Barb, and the Barbs had also begun to turn up in other parts of the farm. Barb was truly everywhere.
Barb bites are thankfully not poisonous and we weren’t too scared of running into her. Even so, Barbs are still quite intimidating to stumble upon - especially while sticking your hand a little too close to one of their webs.
While Barb had many fans, Dylan Koenig, 29, remembers her with less fondness: “Everywhere you turn, there’s a Barb!” lowering his voice and looking around to make there were no Barbs nearby he whispered, “Don’t tell her I said this, but Barb is kind of creepy”. Dylan was absent from work the next day, and although he cited a cold, witnesses saw him nursing what looked suspiciously like a Barb bite. He won’t be slandering Barb again anytime soon.
The reign of Queen Barb I ended on September 28th, a day that will go down in history as one of the saddest days possibly ever. When the tomato plants in the caterpillar tunnel had finally been cleared away, Barb was nowhere to be seen. She went quietly, but her absence is felt in the hearts of many. Some even say that Barb may have survived- that perhaps she is still out there somewhere, biding her time and building her strength for the day she will return to reclaim her throne.
We ask that readers remember Barb as a great and magnanimous leader- and if you don’t, Barb’s many, many children who will be assuming the throne in Barb’s absence will be happy to remind you who is boss on Barb’s Farm - the new official name of the Augusta Health Farm, pending hospital approval.