Are Autumn Spiders Really So Scary?
I cant say I know a lot about spiders, but I have been fascinated by how visible they seem to become in autumn.
I was coming down my steps recently and saw a big one in the centre of a beautiful web barring my exit.
Let’s be honest, I am glad I didn’t blunder into it… a mouthful of sticky silk and a cross arachnid dropping down my neck is not my idea of a great start to the day, but I did have to stop and wonder at the magnificence of its work and to wonder why I don’t see them in such abundance earlier in the year.
I know lots of people are afraid of spiders but I have braved much bigger and scarier beasties on my travels…remind me to tell you about the rat running over my bed in Thailand, or the massive manta ray that seemed to fly out of the deep, dark depths of a coral reef far out in the Red Sea, or being stalked by a wild dog in the Sinai desert.
Yes I have been bitten, by a spider that is, but hey, I disturbed a beauty hiding in a peg on my washing line – and I bear no ill will. I have accidentally taken out a few of her brothers and sisters in my time, without ever meaning to. I say accidentally because I don’t see many reasons to kill anything on purpose, no matter how alien or scuttly they may seem to us humans.
So why exactly do we see them in such abundance at this time of year?
Apparently it’s because they are mostly now full grown and lurking in their webs looking for dinner.
The abundance of gossamer-like threads you might also see are produced by baby spiders setting off on their journey to adulthood. The little ones climb up to places such as plants and walls and fences and spin threads that act like a sail. This is called ballooning. The wind can then pick up them up and carry them off to their new life.
Of the 650-plus species of spiders that have been recorded in Britain, many are just too tiny to notice. It’s the big ones that make us jump as they appear in the bath or scuttle across the carpet. Mostly these are house spiders. It’s the cold that causes them to look for warmer winter quarters, and who can blame them? Inside they are wonderful for getting rid of pests such as mites, flies and so many more. If you cannot see the beauty of the spider as reason enough to let it live why on earth, would you want to kill something that useful?
Outside of course the garden is home to a huge variety of spiders like garden orb web spiders, which can grow to 20mm and spin large, circular silk webs from plants.
Adult females can be up to 20mm long and are red brown with white spots or lines on their bodies. There are untidy spinners like Amaurobius which eat crawling insects, and jumping spiders like Salticus, and wolf spiders which stalk their prey instead of spinning webs. About 650 species in all predate upon all manner of garden small-fry garden pests and are themselves food for birds, frogs, lizards and toads.
So please reconsider if you are planning to eliminate these little wonders. (They are rarely dangerous here in Wales. The False Black Widow that people seem to be so worried about, for example, does no more than give a nip when disturbed that is no worse than a wasp sting and no more dangerous.)
Just remember spiders prevent the other bugs that you don’t want from taking over your home and garden.
At the very least, if you cannot bring yourself to actually like them, please remember that they are doing no harm and will probably provide a meal for something a little higher up the food chain eventually.