Spider Myths
Inside the Outdoors, September 19
, 2014

Recently while out for a walk, a neighbor approached me and stated that a known individual was circulating notes and sticking them in peoples’ doors about the increase in spiders, stating he had a certain theory why so many were in the area.

I decided to turn to the Internet to see what explanations could be concluded about one particular spider observed. After browsing a number of websites, I stumbled upon www.burkemuseum.org and was very much educated. Its author was Rod Crawford.

Calling himself the spider specialist for the Internet, I was glad I found his website. “My opinions are based on 39 years’ experience working with spiders and misinformed people,” he said.

I turned to one question he often receives that may be relevant to our neighbor as well, “Should spider ‘infestations’ be controlled with pesticides?” This was his answer: “Since spiders are predators, they don’t infest anything. Apparent sudden increases in population are really just temporary increases in activity, usually connected with mating. Since nearly all spiders are harmless and beneficial, it doesn’t make much sense to talk about ‘controlling’ them; the spiders themselves are the best pest controllers!”

He went on to say that “Spiders do not react as strongly to ‘residual’ insecticides as insects do. Spider egg sacs are relatively impervious to pesticides.”

He stated the best way to prevent spiders from going where one does not want them is by sealing gaps, crack and openings of all kinds.

One of the myths he wrote about had to do with observers seeing these creatures most numerous in late summer.

“Actually, August and September are the worst time of year for northern hemisphere spider collectors. A few large conspicuous spider species are mature at this time, but not many other species. In mild climates, winter is also better than summer,” Crawford said.

Recently, something bit me while I slept, so I thought. I ‘committed the crime,’ so to speak, as many others have done in the past. Not knowing what the culprit was, I just blamed it on this species of critters. Here is what Crawford said about that.

“Unless you are sleeping on the basement floor, a spider might wander onto your bed as often as twice a year. Not every night! If you take elementary precautions like not letting the blankets or bedspreads touch the floor or walls, the incidence of spiders on the bed will be effectively zero. If a spider does get on a bed, usually no bite will result. Spiders have no reason to bite humans; they are not bloodsuckers, and are not aware of our existence in any case.” He did admit that the bites are possible, but very rare.

“Why couldn’t it be spiders? After all, that’s all I see in the house?” someone may ask. “Essentially all the food a spider consumes in its lifetime,” stated Crawford “is other small living creatures, mainly insects. House spiders may be more conspicuous than household insects, but they could not live there without insects to eat. And if they were not there, there would be a lot more insects.”

It was interesting to read that some spiders cannot live outdoors. They are created to live within the confines of our dwellings. “Only 8 of the 170 Seattle spider species are commonly found both outdoors and in houses,” said the Burke Museum of Natural history and Culture Curator of Arachnids.

I often take spiders and toss them out the door or windows to where I believe they originated. I found in my reading of this website, others have done the same thing.

“You can’t put something ‘back’ outside that was never outside in the first place. Although some house spider species can survive outdoors, most don’t do well there, and some (which are native to other climates) will perish rather quickly when removed from the protective indoor habitat. You are not doing them a favor,” he stated.

The following are myths and misconceptions about spiders. In other words every one of the statements is false:

  • Spiders don’t stick to their own webs because their feet are oily
  • Spider species are distinguished and identified by ‘markings
  • Spiders come into houses in the fall to get out of the cold
  • Certain fruits or nuts can be used to repel spiders
  • Doctors can always tell what spider bit you from the bite alone
  • Spiders in the home are a danger to children and pets
  • And last, you can identify ‘brown recluse’ spiders by a violin shape

“The ‘fiddle-back’ mark is worthless in identification of a brown recluse spider!” he declared. “It is recognized by the arrangement of the eyes.”

For further information, visit www.burkemuseum.org/spidermyth.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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