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With the exception of snakes, spiders are the most commonly feared animals, so it is not surprising that spiders are among the most frequently managed arthropod pests within homes and buildings in the US. Just like insects, centipedes, millipedes, scorpions, ticks, mites, and crustaceans, spiders belong to the phylum Arthropoda, which is made up of more than one million documented species worldwide, 40,000 of which are spiders. The spiders commonly known as “jumping spiders” comprise more than 6,000 documented species in the arachnid family Salticidae. Jumping spiders account for 13 percent of all known spider species, which makes Salticidae the largest spider family.
Jumping spiders range in size from .04 to as much as 1 inch in body length, depending on the species, but most species are between .2 and ½ an inch in length, not counting leg span. Saltids get their common name from their ability to jump toward fleeing insect prey while hunting. In order to effectively pinpoint and capture small and well camouflaged insect prey, jumping spiders have evolved an advanced visual system that can perceive objects with remarkable acuity. While most jumping spider species dwell solely outdoors, several species have adapted to thrive in close association with humans. In fact, jumping spiders are among the most commonly encountered spiders within homes and buildings, as multiple species in the US dwell exclusively indoors where they rely on crevices, dark corners, crowded storage rooms, cluttered attics, wall voids and other dark indoor spaces for shelter.
Jumping spider species that can only be found within manmade structures in Houston include the gray wall jumping spider (Menemerus bivittatus), the pantropical jumping spider (Plexippus paykulli), and the bold jumping spider (Phidippus audax). Jumping spiders are known to gravitate near porch lights in large numbers in order to catch easy insect prey that circle artificial light sources, and they may appear in homes more frequently during the fall and winter when the arachnids are seeking out warm shelter for overwintering. Jumping spiders are often found grouped together on interior and exterior walls and other flat surfaces, presumably because chasing down prey is easiest on a flat surface. Jumping spiders are not aggressive toward humans, and many species are too small to inflict bites that penetrate skin. However, most indoor jumping spider species are considered pests of minor medical importance due to rare incidents in which humans experienced medically significant envenomation symptoms in response to jumping spider bites.
Have you ever encountered a jumping spider in your home?