It’s a web of won­der with fas­ci­nat­ing facts on spi­ders

It takes two to tango with a spi­der, as Mal­colm D. Welsh­man dis­cov­ers . . .

The People's Friend - - This Week -

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.

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