Love them or hate them, it’s that time of year again – the nation’s homes are about to be invaded by Eratigena Atrica (giant house spiders) which come into our homes seeking a partner for mating season.
House spiders are a common source of fear and anxiety for many people. They can appear suddenly, scuttle quickly across the floor, and have an intimidatingly long legs and hairy body. Plus, many people associate spiders with the potential to bite and even transmit diseases, even though the majority of spiders are harmless. This fear is often reinforced by horror movies, which depict spiders as dangerous, even violent, predators with the ability to cause harm. For many people, the mere sight of a spider is enough to make them run for the hills.
I have a love-hate relationship with house spiders. On one hand, I appreciate their role in the natural ecosystem, and I understand that they are generally harmless. On the other hand, I can’t help but be a bit creeped out when I see one crawling on my wall. I know that they are just trying to make a home, but it’s hard to shake off the feeling of uneasiness.
There are 650 different species of spider in the UK and most are too small to bite. There are several domestic spiders but house spiders are larger and are “relatively harmless” and “rarely bite”. The house spider is one of the largest spiders in central and northern Europe. It can be found in all areas of the UK, but predominantly the warmer areas including the south and east. It is usually dark brown and has three lighter coloured spots near the head. The female is larger than the male.
One of the reasons that some of us cringe when we see a spider is their apparent speed. The house spider can run at around half a metre a second making it one of the UK’s fastest invertebrates, and they are more active at night. If you see sheet-like cobwebs in your windows and corners, particularly in autumn, it is likely to have been created by a house spider.
House spiders are resident in our homes all year round but are more prevalent during the autumn period. They are large and fast and can have a leg span of up to 12 cm. They can live for several years and can even survive for months without food or water.
Although spiders are usually in our homes all year round, we see more of them in the autumn when the male of the species seeks out a female partner. He will mate with his chosen one several times before he dies, when the female then has him for lunch – literally.
It is almost impossible to keep spiders out of the house, although keeping things clean and tidy can make it harder for them to hide. They can easily get in through open windows and doors, and even snuggle into washing that is dried outside. For those of us mere mortals who cringe at the sight of a large spider, there are a few things that can put them off living with us, such as essential oils citrus and peppermint scents, which are relatively powerful deterrents.