It’s almost Halloween. Scary ghouls & goblins, wart-faced witches, and an abundance of spiders in webs come to mind. But ever wonder, “why spiders?”
Maybe just because they’re a bit on the creepy side and found in dark, frightening places. Or maybe it’s just guilt by association – even witches need cronies, like black cats, bats, rats and spiders. We naturally associate spiders with death, venom and abandoned places. Spiders have also been thought to have mystical powers because they can spin webs. In ancient times, this ability caused them to be associated with magic, and again witchcraft. Because of this, it’s natural to tie them in with Halloween.
Not all things associated with spiders are ghastly. For example, superstition has it that seeing a spider in your home could mean good fortune is headed your way – and the bigger the spider, the better your reward! But don’t take that wives’ tale to the bank.
Typically, this is the time of year – the transition from summer to fall – when spiders may be more active and prevalent. As temperatures outside drop, most pest and rodent activity ramps up inside your home. And spiders feed on other insects and pests, so they are inherently drawn to where those creatures are living.
In Texas, the most common spiders are American house spiders, wolf spiders, brown recluse, black widow and jumping spiders. All are arachnids with two body segments, eight legs and no antennae.
Of these, two are a venomous species of spiders – the black widow and the brown recluse. Both can be found indoors and outdoors throughout the state:
- The female black widow is jet black color, and has a globular abdomen with the identifying reddish or yellowish hourglass on the underside. Male black widow spiders are smaller, brown and nondescript. The venom of the black widow is a neurotoxin and can lead to severe systemic reactions and in rare cases, death. The black widow’s venom is reportedly 15 times more toxic than the venom of the prairie rattlesnake. However, only a minute amount is injected with each bite. The most severe reactions occur in children and older adults. Black widow spiders can frequently be found in woodpiles, boxes, outdoor toilets, meter boxes, under eaves, and other undisturbed areas.
- Brown recluse spiders are golden brown in color and can be identified by the characteristic dark brown to black fiddle-shaped pattern on the head region. Brown recluse venom is known to cause necrosis in humans. These spiders commonly live in basements and garages of houses and can be found hiding between boards, boxes, and old towels and clothes in dark, undisturbed areas.
Neither the black widow nor the brown recluse spiders are aggressive but both will bite when accidentally trapped, disturbed, scared or threatened. Records show that bites from these spiders are very infrequent, and because of spider antivenin, deaths are rare.
Spider bites are often mistaken for other common insect bites, so try to identify the culprit if you can. Other things that can cause symptoms that mimic spider bites include biting fleas or bed bugs, allergies, poison oak and poison ivy, plus various viral and bacterial infections.
As with most pests, prevention is the best method for spider control. Here are a few things you can do:
- Eliminate or reduce bright outdoor lighting that attracts insects (spiders’ food supply).
- Trim weeds and grass from around buildings and remove piles of excess debris to discourage insects and spiders from living close by.
- Seal or caulk outside openings that may allow spiders to enter the house.
- Use a vacuum cleaner to remove spiders, webs and egg sacs from inside the house.
- Wear gloves and watch carefully when in areas where spiders are likely to live.
- Shake out shoes, clothes, towels, linens, etc. which have been stored and undisturbed for long periods of time before using them.
Whether spiders cause a nightmarish web of worry at your home at Halloween or any other time of year, seek professional help to put your fears to rest.