Spiders (Order Araneae) are ancient animals that date back hundreds of millions of years. They have been a source of both fear and fascination since their beginning.
Spiders are the largest group of arachnids, with over 45,000 species worldwide, including about 3,000 species in North America. There are many spider species still awaiting identification today. With so many species and habitats, spiders range in size, shape, colouring, number of eyes, reproduction and lifespan. For instance, not all spiders spin webs. Some inhabit burrows, which they line with silk. Other have no retreat at all. Some like moisture and live in damp basements. Others prefer dry warm areas like attics or ceiling corners. Some are attracted to air current and will spin webs in and around air vents.
These predators live almost everywhere – on the ground, under rocks, inside crevices, inside and underneath playground equipment, in burrows, among grasses, on plants, in tree branches, in underground caves and even on the water. Spiders frequently stray into dwellings or other indoor habitats in search for a meal or food supply. They may also be accidentally introduced to a home on firewood, laundry that has been hung out to dry, and on flowers. Spiders will also find passage into our homes in boxes, clothing or furniture. In spiders can live in basements, crawl spaces, attics, air vents or in main living areas, in window or ceiling corners. Most often they will hide in dark areas. Essentially, wherever you are, you are always close to a spider.
Spiders can produce a strong silk, that is also sticky and elastic. They use this silk to spin webs, create lining for spider nests and for building egg sacs. Spider webs sizes and shapes vary by spider species. They can be funny or orb-shaped, uniform of messy. or messy hare orderly, while others appear haphazard.
Here in Ontario, spiders are abundant and widespread. Their numbers in cottage country or around waterfront properties can be astounding (and intolerable), particularly on the exterior of homes, cottages, sheds and boathouses. They are also found in and around boats and docks. Here are the most common spiders found in Ontario:
For the most part, spiders are harmless and generally beneficial by keeping the insect populations in check, especially those that are common household pests and some that harm crop production. Spiders are seldom aggressive and bite only when threatened or injured. Few spiders bite people and the venom of most is harmless. However, the bite of the black widow and the brown recluse can be quite dangerous. These spiders are rare in Ontario.
What Do Spiders Look Like?
All spiders can be distinguished by 8 hairy legs, two body segments, no wings or antennae. Female spiders are typically larger than males.
The front body segment is called the cephalothorax. This is where the spider’s eyes, fangs, brain, stomach and poison making glands reside. The top of the cephalothorax is protected by the carapace, which is a shield-like covering. The back body segment is called the abdomen, and this is where their silk producing glands (spinnerets) are. These cephalothorax and abdomen are separated by a visible pedicel (waist).
Most species have 8 eyes, although some have less and a few species have none. Many species have poor eyesight Often the number and arrangement of eyes are important in identifying the different families. Interestingly:
What Do Spiders Eat?
Spiders are predators and mostly feed on insects that are common household pests, like ants, flies, moths, cockroaches and mosquitoes. A few large spider species like the dock spider, wolf spider and jumping spider prey on small vertebrate animals or other prey they can subdue. Spiders have narrow abdomens, and lack chewing mouthparts. This means that they rely on the digestive enzymes in their saliva to break down their victim prior to being consumed.
Some spiders hunt and strike their prey, while others use their sticky web to capture their unsuspecting meal. There are a small number of documented spiders that include some plants, fruit and nectar in their diet. The Baheera kiplingi, a jumping spider in Central America has a diet that includes mostly vegetation.
The Lifecycle Of A Spider
The lifespan of spiders varies due to the 45,000+ known species. On average spiders live for 2 years, but some can live to 20 years. Female spiders are known to live longer than their mal counterparts. This is mostly because male spiders reach maturity faster and some male die after mating. Death can follow the act of mating or from being consumed after mating by the female partner, often to gain additional nutrients to support reproduction.
Mating often happens in spring and summer. Some male spider species even court the female spider prior to mating. Most spiders lay their eggs in silken egg sacs that are placed in the web, attached to leaves or twigs, or carried around by the mother spider until the spiderlings hatch. On average, each egg sac can yield 100 eggs. The yellow sac spider produces less eggs per sac (40), house spiders yield 150-400 eggs per sac, and while dock spiders can produce 1,000 eggs per sac. Eggs can take weeks to an entire winter season to fully develop and hatch.
Hatched spiderlings resemble adults and are often cannibalistic, consuming one another for nutrients. Spiderlings often leave their mother spider a few days after hatching through ballooning. Ballooning occurs when spiderlings float away to new locations through the air on silk strands. Some say it looks like the spiders are parachuting on their webbing. Once the young spiders land they seek out or make shelter, and begin care for themselves. Spiderlings undergo a series of molts to shed their exoskeleton and grow into mature adult spiders
In general spiders do not harm people. Spiders do bite, but it is uncommon for them to bite humans. Most spiders’ fangs are often too small or not strong enough to puncture human skin. Spiders (even those that are venomous) typically don’t bite humans unless they feel threatened or provoked, such as rolling on them in a bed, putting on a of clothing they are inhabiting or trying to touch or remove their egg sacs.
Some people can have an allergic reaction to a spider bite, with reactions similar to an insect bite. Spider venom usually results in slight swelling, inflammation, or itching sensation in humans. Some may have a more serious reaction if they have other medical conditions or sensitivities. Most bites go unnoticed or are mistaken for an common pest insect bite. Others can cause lots of pain or necrotic wound (like from a brown recluse spider).
How Does A Spider Infestation Happen?
Spiders enter homes for various reasons:
If they can find a consistent food source and the favourable habitat conditions, they will often ‘make home’, and often do so out of sight, in dark, undisturbed areas. Some spider species are severely antisocial, preferring their own company.
Signs Of A Spider Infestation
Signs that you have a possible infestation include:
If you see the odd spider here and there, you likely are not dealing with an infestation. That being said, some spiders, like the brown recluse and black widow (uncommon in Ontario) are not gregarious, and infestations in large numbers are rare. Still, we understand that any encounter with the spider may still cause alarm and be a nuisance to you. In these situations, to get rid of spiders you can:
How To Get Rid Of Spiders
Despite being of no harm to humans, and helping to keep insect populations in check, successful methods for how to get rid of spiders may be needed. For those seeking the most effective ways for getting rid of spiders, spider prevention is the best course of action.
Here are some tips to help keep spiders from gaining entry, as well as deterring them from your home or structures:
If you think you have a spider infestation, you can attempt to use a vacuum cleaner or broom to collect up the spiders, webs and egg sacs, and immediately dispose in a sealed bag in an outdoor trash can away from your home.
In some cases, an infestation may be too large to handle without professional help, or chemicals may be needed to properly treat an infestation. Contacting a licensed pest control company to have expertise in spider pest control is an effective solution to help you get rid of spiders.
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