Spiders: there are 40,000 species of them scattered about our globe, with more than 300 at home in San Diego. They are move visible in the late fall, the active season for arachnids who are technically not insects with their eight legs, fangs, multiple eyes and missing antenna.
While Spider-Man may be famous, it is the female spiders, larger and stronger than males, who are the stars of the species. The males spend their time traveling about seeking a mate, a risky game for some species where the encounter ends with the female finishing off her mate as a snack. Some males may spin webs, but it is the ladies who weave the most spectacular webs of various silks, with glorious intricate patterns, spiral, funnel, tubular, sheet, tangle in as few as 30 minutes. Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web even wove messages into hers. On average, a web is 20 times the size of the spider who spins it with the goal of trapping prey. Some high achiever spiders create webs that easily span 6.5 feet in diameter. The largest recorded measures 30 square feet. These productions use up energy. To recoup, a spinner may consume its used webs.
Our local varieties: House spiders, 1/8 – 1/4 inch, come in many colors. Wolf spiders, 1/2 – 1 inch, are gray to brown and have hairy legs. Jumping speakers, 3/8 inch, are brightly colored and patterned. These species may bite defensively but with a mild effect. However, two in our area with deadly reputations are the black widow, jet black with a red hour glass pattern on the underside, the smaller male sports a striped or spotted pattern, and brown widow, brown with an orange hourglass shape on the abdomen. When disturbed, these dangerous spiders who spin messy webs and hide in small spaces, will bite. A victim is advised to get medical treatment. Another scary spider, the brown recluse, featuring a violin shaped pattern on the back, is not found in the area but other harmless spiders have a similar look.
Outdoors spiders are helpful to have in your garden. They keep your plants healthy, free from aphids and other pests. However, indoors spiders are creepy crawly leggy terrors. To clear them: clean up clutter and cobwebs—the scraggly, discarded spider webs. Spiders are sensitive to and will stay away from smells of essential oils, especially peppermint and citrus, and also walnuts or chestnuts along with other possibilities that can eliminate the need for toxic sprays.
Should you want to keep a spider as a pet: they are small, inexpensive, don’t eat much, quiet, and do not require extensive exercise. A Rose Hair Tarantula, known to be mellow and relaxed, may be the answer, or, perhaps, the Curly-Haired Tarantula. But do your research.
Note: In our drought-strapped time, we can only hope that the second line of the rhyme of The itsy bitsy spider — “Down came the rain, and washed the spider out” — happens this winter.