For some people, the slightest glimpse of a spider is enough to inspire shrieks of fear. Some newspapers take full advantage of this notoriety, and every autumn there’s a surge of stories about spiders “invading” our homes, usually focussing on the largest species or those (often incorrectly) thought to be dangerous.
The truth is spiders live alongside us all year round and this is something to celebrate, not fear. These amazing animals are a vital part of our ecosystems, feeding on an astounding number of insects. It's estimated that across the world, spiders eat between 400 and 800 million tons of insects and other invertebrates a year. Many of the insects they eat are considered pests of food crops, garden plants and even people, so having spiders around is a great natural alternative to pesticides.
Some spiders have found their perfect home in our houses, hiding away behind furniture and hunting the other invertebrates that find their way inside, from house flies to wasps and mosquitoes. They tend to keep themselves to themselves, preferring dark corners where they can live in peace. But in late summer and early autumn some spiders become more active as males reach maturity and seek out a female to woo.
The fear of spiders often comes from worries about being bitten, fuelled by urban legends and hyped-up headlines. In reality, very few spiders in the UK are even capable of biting a person, and the small number that can rarely do. So, the next time you spot a spider sheltering in the corner of a room, give it a wave and say keep up the good work!
Here are some of the spiders you might find in your home...
House spiders (Eratigena or Tegenaria species)
These are the familiar large, hairy spiders sometimes seen running across your floor at night. There are several different species of house spider, which are tricky to tell apart! They’re all large and brown with very long legs, and spin sheets of webs in out-of-the-way corners.