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Spiders in the house

October 2011 

spiderYes, it is that time of year again and if you haven’t already spotted them, any day now eight legs will probably be scuttling around your home and appearing in odd corners and, yes, even in the bath.

The spider you will probably see in your home is the appropriately named tegenaria domestica or house spider which normally likes to live around houses and outbuildings.
While they may come in to seek warmth and shelter as the winter weather arrives, the main reason why you spot them in the autumn is because in this species, autumn is the time when their young males reach maturity. This makes them very adventurous and they scuttle further afield and into more open spaces as they seek their perfect mate.

In case you are interested in checking whether the spider you see scuttling across the carpet is male or female, to tell them apart look at their legs and abdomen. Male house spiders have longer legs than females, while females have broader abdomens.

House spiders spin large horizontally shaped webs which incorporate a funnel-shaped resting place where the spider will sit waiting for its food. One tends to think of a spider patiently waiting by its web for a fly to get caught, but in fact spiders live on a wide range of foods, even insects such as beetles, earwigs and even cockroaches. House spiders have even been seen eating earthworms. This is because they don’t swallow them whole, but liquidise their food first.

Even if you methodically remove every web throughout the autumn, it doesn’t mean the spider will definitely go away because spiders can survive for months without any food or water.

Once a male spider has found a female, he will stay with her for several weeks and will mate with her a few times before eventually dying. Some think that female house spiders kill their mates, but this isn’t what happens. It is only once the male has died that the female might eat him to help keep up its strength.

You do sometimes see spiders in your bath, especially at this time of year, but the myth that they can walk up the pipes and come in through the plug hole are a bit farfetched. What normally happens is the spider will have been crossing the side of the bath or a nearby ledge or wall and by accident will have fallen down to the bottom. Spiders can’t grip on smooth surfaces so once at the bottom of the bath they can’t climb back out again and hide.

House spiders are pretty harmless really but are sometimes confused with a similar species, the tenegaria agrestis, or aggressive house spider. This looks very similar to a normal house spider but it can bite humans. However, it rarely comes into a home, so bites from this spider are fairly rare and even if you are unlucky enough to be bitten, they are not dangerous.

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