Learning to coexist with spiders

At a recent family gathering, someone discovered a spider outside the window and everyone made quite a ruckus. All except me wanted to kill the spider, even though it was outside and not inside and completely harmless. I quickly discovered that I was the only person in the family who liked spiders.

Spiders and their webs are very apparent right now as they diligently prepare for fall and winter.

The spider discovered at the family gathering was an orb-weaving spider and not a brown recluse, as everyone was yelling.

Orb weaver spiders are those that construct the typical web that everyone relates to spiders. This web is to trap flying insects; orb weavers have poor vision and locate their prey by the vibration and tension on the threads of the web.

Most of the orb weaver spiders are large, around 1 inch. Many are brightly colored and the one that we see the most in our gardens around here is the yellow garden spider. It has a large abdomen with black and bright yellow or orange markings.

Another really cool spider that has covered the Ohio State University Extension’s Gateway Learning Garden plants and lawn is the funnel web spider. These are pretty easy to pick out, as its web looks like a mass laying on the ground or in and on top of plants. The webs are usually horizontal, flat, large and have nonsticky silk.

If you look closely at the mass, you will notice a funnel or hole in the web. The spider hides at the narrow end of the funnel, down under the plant foliage. When it feels the vibration of something walking across the web, it dashes out, bites the insect and then carries it back into the funnel.

The spider that many fear is the brown recluse. However, we don’t tend to see this spider in Ohio, as it doesn’t survive our winters. If it’s found in Ohio, it’s usually indoors and has been transported from someplace warm.

We do have a spider that resembles is the brown recluse called the wolf spider. The wolf or brown recluse spiders don’t build webs. They are more of a hunter and roam around to find prey.

All spiders are capable of biting people, but most in Ohio lack the ability to cause serious damage. That said some people can have severe reactions to a spider bite.

Several research studies have actually shown that recluse spiders rarely bite people and many of the symptoms that have been diagnosed as recluse spider bites were actually caused by other agents, such as bacterial infections.

The University of California at Davis has excellent information on spiders and bites in an online resource. Go to www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/index.html and search for brown recluse to find the article.

I appreciate and am sensitive to those who don’t like spiders, however you won’t find me killing them, as they are feeding on insects in my garden.

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