It’s a web of wonder with fascinating facts on spiders
It takes two to tango with a spider, as Malcolm D. Welshman discovers . . .
MY wife and I had just settled down to watch “Strictly Come Dancing” when a giant spider shot out from under the settee and did a paso doble across the carpet in front of the TV.
“Just look at that,” Maxeen cried, pointing.
“A well-executed turn by Debbie Mcgee,” I declared, as Bruno Tonioli waved his arms enthusiastically in the air and the spider stopped to wave two of his eight legs before scuttling out of sight.
That spider was a giant house spider – eratigena atrica, to give it its Latin name. Dark orange-brown in colour, this is the most common critter to invade our homes in the autumn.
And this year, as the weather turns cooler and wetter, we’re in for a mass invasion. So we’d better watch our steps. And not just those on “Strictly”.
“Spiders don’t specifically want to enter your home,” Simon Garrett, head of learning at Bristol Zoological Society, says. “In fact, they’d rather stay away as there’s less food and it’s too dry and clean.”
He goes on to explain that it’s the urge to seek out a mate that brings them in. And suddenly it seems they’re everywhere.
It’s because the females rarely leave their nests that the males have to scurry around looking for them.
Webs are spun in corners, between boxes in cellars, behind cupboards, in attics and near window openings.
We’ve a big one in the cables behind our TV. No doubt that’s where our “Strictly” spider was heading to find a mate.
After their fling, the female will lay hundreds of eggs, and in each egg sac there can be up to 60 “spiderlings”.
Unfortunately, we can’t stop them crawling into our homes.
David Cross, head of the Technical Training Academy at Rentokil Pest Control, says, “As spiders are able to squeeze themselves through tiny gaps and holes, it’s impossible to proof your house against them completely, but of course, closing doors and windows will help to keep them at bay.”
Apart from the giant house spiders, other likely contenders to waltz into your home are the missing sector orb spider, the daddy long legs, the lace web spider and the zebra jumping spider.
Add to that list the smallest – the money spider – so called because according to superstition, if one got stuck in your hair it would bring you good luck and wealth.
Not so welcome is an encounter with a cardinal spider. At 14 cm across, it’s the largest in the UK. Mind you, at least that can’t hurt you, unlike a false widow spider – steatoda nobilis.
These are only two centimetres wide, dark brown with a bulbous abdomen, but are Britain’s most venomous spider.
Some adult female false widows have been known to bite humans. Symptoms range from a numb sensation to severe swelling and discomfort.
“Very few species of spider will bite people and of those that try, only a small number can even break our skin,” Simon Garrett confirms reassuringly.
“Very few species of spider will bite people”
“Spiders don’t want to enter your home”
“There are no inherently deadly species of spider found in the UK as their venom is designed for killing much smaller, simpler creatures for food, such as insects.”
Even so, I quickly scoot out to make sure the back door is firmly closed and all the windows fastened. And once “Strictly” has finished I’ll do another vacuuming of the house, with the extension nozzle fitted to target sheltered spots and corners of the ceilings.
At least that will ensure no webs are being spun and that there are no dead flies or other small crawling insects around for any spiders to feed on.
Needless to say, the appearance of our giant house spider that evening had Maxeen demanding its instant capture and expulsion.
I used to use the standard “glass and a stiff piece of cardboard” technique. But house spiders can quickstep at a rate of knots and many times I’ve missed in my attempts to trap one under a tumbler.
It was Maxeen who provided the solution.
No, she didn’t do the trapping herself but purchased a more effective device for me to do so. It’s called a My Pink Pals Bug Buster.
“What on earth . . .?” I faltered when she first flashed the long vacuum tube at me with a flourish worthy of Darth Vader in “Star Wars”.
“It will suck it up,” she explained, switching the gadget on.
And it does work a treat. The bug buster consists of a hand held, battery-powered spider and insect trap, enabling me to vacuum up spiders safely from the end of the 64-cm-long tube. Then it’s a quick release outside without the need to touch them.
I need to hurry. It’s nearly time for Alexandra Burke and Gorka to take to the floor.
“Now, matey, let’s be having you,” I mutter, poking my bug buster round the back of the TV . . . n
Outside, where he belongs!
Reducing outside lighting will help to deter spiders.