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Californian chap sets his folks' home on fire by successfully taking out spiders with blowtorch

Talk about scorched earth policies

Kill it with fire! A bloke in Fresno, California, almost burned his parents' house down when he opted for a blowtorch to address the property's black widow spider population.

The skittish house-sitter called the cavalry to the Woodward Lake housing development late on Tuesday.

Twenty-nine firefighters responded and extinguished the blaze. No one was injured, and the caller escaped safely, though the same probably can't be said for the spiders.


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The home's second storey and attic suffered a singeing. We can imagine that Ma and Pa won't be best pleased.

"Although the exact cause has not been determined, fire crews believe the blowtorch is to blame," telly news ABC30 helpfully reported.

Well, yes. That'll do it.

But... why? Arachnophobia, the irrational fear of spiders, is well documented in western society. One school of thought particular to evolutionary psychology holds that it is an instinctive response, easily acquired through the presence of venomous spiders.

Mummy gets bitten gathering berries, Mummy's arm swells up, Mummy's arm falls off, Mummy dies, family forever more avoids things with eight legs.

Not irrational, but when you hear a scream from upstairs and rush up to find your partner standing on the toilet pointing at something a couple of millimetres across, barely equipped to pierce human skin, that's where the "phobia" part comes in.

Redback spider. Photo by shutterstock

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However, the black widow – though small – has a fearsome reputation. Latrodectus hesperus is found across the western United States, yet only the female of the species actually packs venom glands large enough to require medical attention after a bite. Though fatalities have happened, they are rare.

But its Australian cousin – the redback spider (Latrodectus hasseltii) – is even scarier. The female often eats the male after mating, where the common name "black widow" comes from, and bite symptoms are severe. Infants have died within hours and adult fatalities can take up to 30 days. Thankfully, an antivenom exists and deaths have dropped since its introduction.

Still, he could have just called pest control. ®

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