Most spiders are not really dangerous

Published on Wednesday, 8 November 2017 18:25 - Written by ANNE BROWN, Smith County Master Gardeners

Have you ever been in your garden and had a feeling that eyes, lots of eyes, were watching you? Well, they probably were.

Most people know that spiders are not insects, but spiders are included in classes about bugs since they are often encountered while gardening. Smith County, along with most of East Texas, really only has two spiders that should be avoided - the brown recluse and the black widow. Both have venomous bites that should be monitored, but are usually not fatal. Since we hear so much about these two species I will gladly move on to other species that are beneficial to humans and birds.

Spiders consume a large variety of insect pests and other spiders and birds will often feed on spiders. Spiders are arachnids; they have eight legs, mouth parts with fangs, two body parts and up to eight eyes. Most spiders only live for one season, but some can live for decades, most often the larger species. After mating, the female will produce an egg sac, which may be attached in a secluded area or carried around by the adult until the eggs hatch. Some species carry the young on their backs.

The young (spiderlings) go through several motes, but always look like the adult. The spiderlings move around with help from the wind. Often, while working among plants, small colorful spiders can be seen sitting quietly waiting for their prey. Some species will appear to jump from one location to another or jump to catch their prey, and some species will actually inhabit a certain area their whole life; some hunt only at night.

Most often we see the webs that spiders use to trap their food. Spiders are unique in being able to produce silk all the time, and spider silk is one of the strongest materials known to man. Spiders spin webs with different patterns depending on the species. By looking at the web pattern it is often easy to know the type of spider that created it, especially beneficial with black widows. Spider webs covered in rain drops or early morning dew are some of the most beautiful pictures I have seen.

When cooler weather is here, spiders will be looking for shelter and will not hesitate to move into the house. Most spider bites occur because the spider is threatened or endangered, so keeping a close lookout is important. Spiders like moist, dark conditions and will occupy bathrooms, bedrooms, closets and clothes that are not frequently used. Products that contain pyrethrin or labeled for use to control spiders can be used, but these will not necessarily get rid of all the spiders. Using a vacuum or broom to remove webs and their occupants is a much better control for these “beneficials” than using chemicals. Spiders do move around and will come back, just remember how much they help control the “bad bugs.”