Spiders

There’s an old naturalist’s saying that you’re never more than 5 feet from a spider (or a snake – but that’s for another day). It’s probably true, as spiders can be found nearly everywhere, indoors and out. If your house is like mine, overnight they can spin webs all around my house, on my car, throughout my carport. You can’t go outside without walking through those almost impossible to see but stick on you forever webs!

Typically, one will see more spiders in the fall because of the lifecycle. Spiders hatch in the spring, reproduce and subsequently die in the fall. So, while spiders typically lie low in the early summer (mostly in an effort to keep from being eaten), by August, the survivors are large enough to start spinning webs, thus the influx right now.

Despite their creepy reputation, spiders are largely beneficial and help keep pests like flies and plant-feeding insects under control. With few exceptions, spiders rarely bite and are not generally dangerous to people. That said almost all spiders bite and use venom to paralyze their prey. After injecting the venom, the prey is often wrapped with silk to subdue it. Many spiders live solely on a liquid diet because the powerful digestive enzymes injected by the fangs dissolve their prey’s body tissues. Spider venoms are being studied for possible uses in medicine and pest control. Only two types of spiders in Texas are considered medically significant: the brown recluse, and widow spiders. Only a few other spiders, such as house spiders and sac spiders, can produce a noticeable bite.

Keep spiders outside by installing or repairing weather stripping around doors and windows. Seal and caulk around lighted doors and windows, where insects and the spiders that feed on them gather. Reducing clutter is an important way to keep spiders away. Move firewood or other construction items away from the house. Prune back shrubbery or trees that touch the house to discourage widow spiders from building webs on exterior walls. Outdoor lighting attracts insects and the spiders that feed on them. Direct light away from doorways where possible and turn them off when they are not needed. Use yellow bug lights to attract fewer insects.

Insecticide options are not great choices for spiders as spiders often live on webs above treated surfaces, it is difficult to treat them as you would crawling insects. Spiders also appear to tolerate conventional pesticides better than do common indoor insects. Therefore, sanitation and physical removal are the best way to manage most spiders. Plus, spiders serve a purpose; and no, it’s not to scare people. They do eat insects and are an vital part of the ecosystem that we need to learn to live with. I try to relocate spiders around my house, I brush them off with brooms and many times the next morning the same banana spider is back with a web over the same window….guess it’s home and I can just say I’m decorating for Halloween early!

If you do get bit by a spider treat spider bites by applying an ice pack to relieve local swelling and pain. If the reaction is severe, consult a doctor immediately and, if possible, take along the spider for positive identification. For more information or identification of insects contact Chelsea Dorward at 254-435-2331 or Chelsea.dorward@ag.tamu.edu.

 

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