Spiders that invade our homes as months turn colder and damper
Whenever you see a spider scuttle across the lounge carpet and under the sideboard, the likelihood is that it will have been an eratigena atrica – more commonly known as the house spider.
Orangey-brown in colour, it is the most common critter to enter our homes in the autumn.
However, it isn’t the cooler and wetter weather that entices the arachnoid fraternity into our houses.
In fact, they’d rather stay outdoors as there’s less food inside and it’s too clean and dry.
It is the urge to seek out a mate that brings them in and, because the females rarely leave their nests, the males have to scurry around to find them.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we might try, we can’t stop them from taking up residence in our homes.
Webs are frequently spun in corners, behind furniture, in cellars and lofts, and near window openings.
After the deed is done, the female will lay hundreds of eggs and in each egg sac there can be up to sixty spiderlings.
Although this may strike fear and dread into those of us who feel revulsion towards spiders, reassurance can be taken from the fact that there are no inherent deadly species of spiders found in the UK.
In fact, very few species of spiders will bite humans and of those that may try, only a small number can even break the skin.
Apart from the house spider, there are several other contenders likely to be tucked in undisturbed areas of our homes.
These include the missing sector orb spider (Zygiella x-notata), the daddy long legs (Hadrobunus grandis), the lace web spider (Amaurobius ferox), the zebra jumping spider (Salticus scenicus) and the money spider (Linyphiidae).
The latter is so called because, according to superstition, if one got stuck in your hair then your finances would improve.
However, it is not only the money spider which is thought to be a harbinger of good fortune – spiders in general have been associated with good luck for centuries.
Although many theories have been advanced as to the origin of beliefs about spiders, most can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when the healthiest households were those full of spiders.
In those insanitary times, flies carried disease everywhere, and only in the places where spiders were found in abundance could you hope to have immunity from such pests and thereby prosper.
It is a good omen to see a spider spinning its web – if you do, you will shortly get some new clothes given.
A web is also thought to have the power to stop bleeding when laid over the wound.
Superstition also says that it was a spider’s web that hid the infant Jesus from King Herod’s soldiers.
In 1314, with his brother executed and his queen held captive, King Robert the Bruce of Scotland was considering admitting defeat until he saw the persistence of a spider trying to spin a web between two beams.
Inspired by its tenacity, he fought on and, after eight long years of fighting, finally defeated the English and regained his crown.
In Eastern Europe it is a tradition to have an artificial spider hidden among the decorations on the Christmas tree.
Legend has it that a housewife had spent all Christmas Eve cleaning her house in readiness for Christmas Day.
The disturbed house spiders fled to the farthest corners and crevices of the living room and watched as the woman and her husband decorated a fir tree.
The spiders loved the beautifully dressed tree so much that, after the husband and wife had gone to bed, they danced all over it, spinning webs to leave behind as a sign of gratitude.
Later, when Father Christmas arrived down the chimney to deliver gifts he miraculously transformed the intricate webs into strands of silver and gold to prevent the house-proud woman from being dismayed.
So, in honour of that legend, it has become customary to drape tinsel and lametta around a tree to represent the spiders’ webs.
It is believed that the first person to spot the concealed artificial spider will be blessed with good fortune throughout the following year.
Nevertheless, no matter how much you may detest spiders, you should expect very bad luck indeed if you should kill one, for as an old proverb says: “If you wish to live and thrive, Let the spider run alive.”
However, there are plenty of tips to lessen the chances of spider influxes.
Firstly, keeping doors and windows closed will help keep them at bay and reduced lighting can also help.
Insects are drawn to light, and flies and moths are perfect spider fodder, so reducing outdoor lighting should in theory reduce the numbers of spiders around.
Using ready-mixed filler to squirt into gaps round pipework and skirting boards will help to reduce the number of entry portals, too.
The smell of citrus fruits like lemon or lime deters spiders, so you could try rubbing lemon or lime peel around window and door frames.
Spiders also dislike the odour of eucalyptus, tea tree and peppermint oils.
An old wives’ tale says that spiders dislike conkers and that placing them around the house will keep them at bay.
On a more technical level, ultrasonic pest repellents are available to buy.
When plugged in, these gadgets emit ultrasonic and electromagnetic waves which stimulate the hearing and brain nerves of most flying and crawling insects.
As a result, spiders will avoid the affected area, as it is thought they experience distress.
Failing that, you could always opt for the standard glass tumbler and stiff piece of cardboard technique – although far too often the spider will be quicker than you and will more than likely escape and retreat to an unreachable crevice.
It is worth bearing in mind, though, that sharing your humble abode with a spider might just be the lesser of two evils. For example, spiders feed on smaller household pests such as flies, ants, moths and even fleas, thus in fact reducing the number of critters crawling around your carpets.