It’s that time of year again, doesn’t matter where we look - spiders here, spiders there, we see spiders EVERYWHERE!
These creepy, crawling eight legged critters sure do have a bad rep – even though they have always been with us, and an ancient source of fear and fascination. Most spiders are quite handsome or graceful, and all of them are fascinating. Their beneficial role in keeping insect populations in check far outweighs the hazard posed by the few spiders that occasionally bite humans.
There are over 3,500 species of spiders in the USA, and only 3 of those can harm us - the black widow, brown recluse, and hobo spiders. Those that can bite through human skin only do so when provoked. True spider bites (which are rare events) occur when a spider is trapped inside clothing or when someone foolishly puts a hand or other body part in a spider habitat without looking, or even more foolishly slaps at a spider that is crawling on them. Their bite is merely a defense, I mean, how would you feel if suddenly you caught the attention of a giant who can put you on the tip of his finger! Talk about SCARY!
Wherever you live, you’re close to a spider. There are two types – indoor and outdoor. Yep, the ones in your house are indoor dwellers, especially adapted for indoor conditions. When you gently capture one to put it outside (rather than squishing it) you aren’t doing it any favors - that spider was always right there, in your house feeding on household insects, stray flies, and each other. They live in neglected areas: attics, basements, behind and under furniture; bookcases or appliances; and in cracks between boards.
Corners and baseboards are favorite locations. Most house spiders are seldom seen except during housecleaning, but some of the larger species mature and become more active from late August to early October. At that time, the house may appear to have been invaded. Outdoor spiders do sometimes blow or crawl in through open windows, etc., but most either die of thirst in the house or fall prey to resident species.
Spiders never migrate in from the cold and never find a way into your home via plumbing or bathroom faucets. House spiders are thirsty creatures living in a very water-poor environment, and any that venture near a sink or tub with drops of water in it will try to reach the water, often by climbing down a wall. Once in the slick-sided porcelain basin, they are unable to climb back out unless a helpful human "lends them a hand”. Usually spider activity declines by mid-October, retiring into obscurity for another year, quietly killing several times their weight in household insect pests and flies. So, if you see one on the wall or scurrying across the floor, just wave as it goes by!
Outdoor spiders are nature’s greatest artists. If you stop and really look at a spiders work, you’ll see the most spectacular display - the greatest engineering feats of the natural world! There are three types of webs, 1) orbs – the big fancy webs, 2) funnels – usually low to the ground; the spider waits inside for insects to get trapped on their silks, and 3) sheets – large flat shaped webs, usually formed by colonies of spiders.
Truth is, only about half of all spiders catch their food on a web. The rest like to hunt and pounce or sit quietly and wait for dinner to come by. Webs are made from spiders “silk”, a liquid produced in their abdomen that secretes out from spinnerets, which are small tubes at the end of the abdomen. The silk strained through is in liquid form, but immediately takes on a solid form; much like cotton candy does, when exposed to air.
We see —- or run into —-big orb webs in late summer and early fall because the spiders have matured and are completing their life cycles. The smaller webs that spiderlings built earlier in the year were mostly inconspicuous.
As the spiderlings aged, their webs became more specialized. To people, the average orb web is practically invisible, and it’s easy to blunder into one and become covered with its sticky material. (Spiders don’t get caught in their own webs because they have special hooked claws to grasp the silky threads.) The female builds the most impressive orbs, trying to attract a mate before it's too late. She will come out in the evening and throughout the night, waiting for prey, constantly repairing her web, and looking for a mate. During the day she'll remain motionless on the upper end of her web or leave the web and hide inside a leaf or something nearby. If the weather is really windy or rainy, she’ll build an umbrella by curling a leaf and “sewing” it with silk.
Watch a web at night and you’ll actually see her working on it – mending and mending. She's completely harmless and will avoid trouble. There are often cottony spots on the web, called 'decorations'. Some spiders will spin these to deter birds from flying into and destroying it. If she finds her mate (a much smaller and less colorful spider – the ONLY other spider aloud to live on the web!), work will begin on an egg sack, preparing to lay her eggs in late fall. It will appear somewhere near the web - hanging from an eave, plant, tree, chair - and sometimes in an eave between sections of siding. The ones on the houses are stuffed into the corner of the eave - look like cotton ball.
The babies will hatch in the spring and disperse. There will be literally hundreds of them. During dispersal, they will do what's called bridging or ballooning. When ballooning, they choose a clear, warm day for their venture, and in a frenzy of activity, they will bridge by racing wildly up and down fence-posts and structures – reaching the highest point, they rise up on their legs, and, elevating the abdomen, emit several strands of the finest silk from its spinnerets. As the threads lengthen, a current of wind will lift them up and carry them away over the tree-tops on silken parachutes. It's cute to watch and leaves a remarkable carpet of silk covering fields or shrubs. Many will remain in your yard but you won't even notice them until late summer - fall.
If you ever find yourself getting creeped out by the scurrying critter on your hardwood floor, just remember this fellow lives there, too and because of him there are no silverfish, mesquites, flies, beetles and other insects invading your home! Sure hope you enjoyed seeing the bright side of our eight legged friends! Happy Halloween from our web to yours!!!
(This is a Smiley Spider from Hawaii – now how can you hate that!)
The spider spun a silver web
Above the gate last night
It was round with little spokes
And such a pretty sight
This morning there were drops of dew
Hung on it, one by one;
They changed to diamonds, rubies red.
When they were lit with sun.
A spiders nice to have around
To weave a web so fine
On which to string the drops of dew
That catch the bright sunshine.